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

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."

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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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
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

Spanish Central: Translation of akimbo

Nglish: Translation of akimbo for Spanish Speakers

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a period when something is suspended

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