pan·​jan·​drum | \ pan-ˈjan-drəm How to pronounce panjandrum (audio) \
plural panjandrums also panjandra\ pan-​ˈjan-​drə How to pronounce panjandrum (audio) \

Definition of panjandrum

: a powerful personage or pretentious official

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Panjandrum looks like it might be a combination of Latin and Greek roots, but in fact it is a nonsense word coined by British actor and playwright Samuel Foote around 1755. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Foote made up a line of gibberish to "test the memory of his fellow actor Charles Macklin, who had asserted that he could repeat anything after hearing it once." Foote's made-up line was, "And there were present the Picninnies, and the Joblillies, and the Garyulies and the Grand Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at the top." Some 75 years after this, Foote's passage appeared in a book of stories for children by the Anglo-Irish writer Maria Edgeworth. It took another quarter century before English speakers actually incorporated panjandrum into their general vocabulary.

Examples of panjandrum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Calvin Klein, the panjandrum of pants, sold his beach house there for $84.4m. The Economist, 13 Mar. 2021 The forum, for its part, will drum up support for the venture among the world’s panjandrums—and with luck some dosh as well. The Economist, 23 Jan. 2018 The industry’s panjandrums insist that a new culture of compliance will make FDA site closures a thing of the past. The Economist, 22 Mar. 2018 The forum, for its part, will drum up support for the venture among the world’s panjandrums—and with luck some dosh as well. The Economist, 23 Jan. 2018

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

First Known Use of panjandrum

1825, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for panjandrum

Grand Panjandrum, burlesque title of an imaginary personage in some nonsense lines by Samuel Foote

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The first known use of panjandrum was in 1825

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Cite this Entry

“Panjandrum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Aug. 2022.

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