adjective or adverb
akim·​bo | \ ə-ˈkim-(ˌ)bō How to pronounce akimbo (audio) \

Definition of akimbo

1 : having the hand on the hip and the elbow turned outward
2 : set in a bent position a tailor sitting with legs akimbo

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Did you know?

It's "akimbo" nowadays, but in Middle English, the spelling "in kenebowe" was used for the bent, hand-on-hip arm (or later, for any bent position). Originally, the term was fairly neutral, but now saying that a person is standing with "arms akimbo" implies a posture that communicates defiance, confidence, aggressiveness, or arrogance. In her novel Little Women, Louisa May Alcott took the word one step further, extending it into the figurative realm when she explained that tomboyish Jo had not been invited to participate in an elegant event with the other young ladies of the neighborhood because "her elbows were decidedly akimbo at this period of her life."

Examples of akimbo in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web On Wednesday, Noelle — bundled into a light-pink sweatshirt against the springtime cold — stood with her legs apart, arms slightly akimbo, locked into a track star’s almost-crouch. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2021 But Lisa Kudrow, with her akimbo intelligence, brought the part in sideways. Wesley Morris, New York Times, 5 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'akimbo.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of akimbo

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for akimbo

Middle English in kenebowe

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The first known use of akimbo was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

24 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Akimbo.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/akimbo. Accessed 19 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for akimbo



English Language Learners Definition of akimbo

of the arms : with the hands on the hips and the elbows turned outward
of the legs : spread apart in a bent position


adverb or adjective
akim·​bo | \ ə-ˈkim-bō How to pronounce akimbo (audio) \

Kids Definition of akimbo

1 : with the hands on the hips and the elbows turned outward She stood with arms akimbo.
2 : set in a bent position He sat with legs akimbo.

More from Merriam-Webster on akimbo

Nglish: Translation of akimbo for Spanish Speakers


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