\ \ [14] Greek pugmé meant ‘fist’ (it may have been related to Latin pugnusfist’, source of English pugnacious). By extension, it was used for a ‘measure of length equal to the distance from the elbows to the knuckles’. From it was derived pugmaíosdwarfish’, which passed into English via Latin pygmaeus. In ancient and medieval times it was used as a noun to designate various apocryphal or mythical races of short stature, but it was not until the late 19th century that it was applied to the people of equatorial Africa who now bear the name.

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • Pygmy — Pyg my, Pygmean Pyg*me an, a. [L. pygmaeus. See {Pygmy}.] Of or pertaining to a pygmy; resembling a pygmy or dwarf; dwarfish; very small. Like that Pygmean race. Milton. [1913 Webster] {Pygmy antelope} (Zo[ o]l.), the kleeneboc. {Pygmy goose}… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Pygmy — Pyg my, n.; pl. {Pygmies}. [L. pygmaeus, Gr. ?, fr. ? the fist, a measure of length, the distance from the elbow to the knuckles, about 131 inches. Cf. {Pugnacious}, {Fist}.] [Written also {pigmy}.] 1. (Class. Myth.) One of a fabulous race of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pygmy — late 14c., Pigmei, member of a fabulous race of dwarfs, described by Homer and Herodotus and said to inhabit Egypt or Ethiopia and India, from L. Pygmaei (sing. Pygmaeus), from Gk. Pygmaios, originally plural of an adj. meaning dwarfish, lit. of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • pygmy — *dwarf, midget, manikin, homunculus, runt …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • pygmy — is derived from a Greek word pygmē meaning ‘the length of the forearm’ and largely for this reason the spelling with y is preferable to the form pigmy …   Modern English usage

  • pygmy — (also pigmy) ► NOUN (pl. pygmies) 1) a member of certain peoples of very short stature in equatorial Africa. 2) chiefly derogatory a very small person or thing. 3) a person who is deficient in a particular respect: intellectual pygmies. ►… …   English terms dictionary

  • Pygmy — [pig′mē] n. pl. Pygmies [ME pigmey < L pygmaeus < Gr pygmaios, of the length of the pygmē, forearm and fist, also fist: see PUGNACIOUS] 1. any of several groups of small African or Asian peoples described in ancient history and legend 2. a… …   English World dictionary

  • Pygmy — pygmoid, adj. pygmyish, adj. pygmyism, n. /pig mee/, n., pl. Pygmies, adj. n. 1. Anthropol. a. a member of a small statured people native to equatorial Africa. b. a Negrito of southeastern Asia, or of the Andaman or Philippine islands. 2. (l.c.)… …   Universalium

  • pygmy — 1. noun a) (often capitalized, usually in the plural: Pygmies) A member of one of various Ancient Equatorial African tribal peoples, notable for their very short stature The Bantu immigration drove many Pygmy tribes into the darkest jungle, while …   Wiktionary

  • pygmy — pyg|my1 , pigmy [ˈpıgmi] n plural pygmies [Date: 1300 1400; : Latin; Origin: pygmaeus very small in height , from Greek, from pygme fist (as a unit of length) ] 1.) also Pygmy someone …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • pygmy — [[t]pɪ̱gmi[/t]] pygmies also pigmy 1) ADJ: ADJ n Pygmy means belonging to a species of animal which is the smallest of a group of related species. Reaching a maximum height of 56cm the pygmy goat is essentially a pet. 2) N COUNT A pygmy is a… …   English dictionary

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