Definition of popinjay
: a strutting supercilious person
popinjay was our Word of the Day on 09/23/2009. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Popinjays and parrots are birds of a feather. "Popinjay," from the Middle French word papegai, is the original name for a parrot in English. (The French word in turn came from the Arabic word for the bird, "babghā." "Parrot," which English speakers adopted later, probably comes from Middle French perroquet.) In the days of Middle English, parrots were rare and exotic, and it was quite a compliment to be called a "popinjay" after such a beautiful bird. But by the 1500s, parrots had become more commonplace, and their gaudy plumage and vulgar mimicry helped "popinjay" develop the pejorative sense we use today.
Origin and Etymology of popinjay
Middle English papejay parrot, from Middle French papegai, papejai, from Arabic babghā'
First Known Use: 1528
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