\ ˈfā How to pronounce fey (audio) \

Definition of fey

1a chiefly Scotland : fated to die : doomed
b : marked by a foreboding of death or calamity another and lesser man … gave a fey lonely warning— Hodding Carter
2a : able to see into the future : visionary Not being fey, he never suspected what it would lead to.
b : marked by an otherworldly air or attitude she had that half shy, half fey smile and that birdlike perkiness— A. G. Ogden
3a : excessively refined : precious a fey, self-indulgent dandy
b : quaintly unconventional : campy … audiences howl at her off-center delivery of fey folk songs and quaint special material.— Howard Teichmann

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Other Words from fey

feyly adverb
feyness noun

Did You Know?

Fey is a word that defies its own meaning, since it has yet to even come close to the brink of death after being in our language for well over 800 years. In Old and Middle English it meant "feeble" or "sickly." Those meanings turned out to be fey themselves, but the word lived on in senses related to death, and because a wild or elated state of mind was once believed to portend death, other senses arose from these. The word fay, meaning "fairy" or "elf," may also have had an influence on some senses of "fey." Not until the late 20th century did the word's most recent meanings, "precious" and "campy," find their way onto the pages of the dictionary.

Examples of fey in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But on the biographical front, the popular image of Dickinson as a fragile, fey, romantically disappointed recluse has been harder to shake. Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, "A Very Modern Emily Dickinson (Twerking Included)," 30 Oct. 2019 And then there’s Brooks Ashmanskas as Ronnie Wilde: Martin’s fake boyfriend and instructor in all things fey. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Onstage, the New Gay Agenda Involves Cake and Not Getting Fired," 8 July 2018 To some readers, Ms Moshfegh’s premise may seem fey and slight. The Economist, "Ottessa Moshfegh’s second novel is as arresting as her first," 12 July 2018 New wavers like Depeche Mode knit the supposedly frivolous and fey sounds of disco into their gloom. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "What Linkin Park Gave to Pop Music," 25 June 2018 Giacometti was a master of affixing tiny animals and curling leaves to the bronze framework of his designs, lending them a fey quality; Anthonioz eschews ornament, preferring sleek minimalist shapes. Nancy Hass, New York Times, "Inside a Parisian Sculptor’s World of Wonders," 21 Feb. 2018 However, according to the Daily Mail, Wenger himself (along with a fey key people) knew that his time at the club was up an entire month ago. SI.com, "Report Claims Arsene Wenger Made Decision to Leave Arsenal a Month Ago Over Fears of Being Sacked," 23 Apr. 2018 Barnatan’s playing bordered on being too precious for my tastes, a fey hyper-expressivity that traded concern for Schubert’s architecture with Barnatan’s delight in magnifying the details. Christian Hertzog, sandiegouniontribune.com, "In his San Diego debut, tenor Robin Tritschler captivates audience in La Jolla Music Society concert," 15 Apr. 2018 Pacino's Herod, who's married to Herodias (a steely Hart), Salomé's mother and the widow of the king's brother, is a singular creation: playful, taunting, persuasive, a bit fey. Gary Goldstein, latimes.com, "Al Pacino interprets Oscar Wilde in companion pieces 'Wilde Salomé' and 'Salomé'," 29 Mar. 2018

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

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First Known Use of fey

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for fey

Middle English feye, from Old English fǣge; akin to Old High German feigi doomed and perhaps to Old English fāh hostile, outlawed — more at foe

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The first known use of fey was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Fey.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fey. Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

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