pygmy

noun

pyg·​my ˈpig-mē How to pronounce pygmy (audio)
variants or less commonly pigmy
plural pygmies also pigmies
1
often capitalized : any of a race of dwarfs described by ancient Greek authors
2
capitalized : any of a small people of equatorial Africa ranging under five feet (1.5 meters) in height
3
a(1)
: an unusually small person
(2)
: an insignificant or unimpressive person
an intellectual pygmy
b
: something very small of its kind
pygmy adjective

Examples of pygmy in a Sentence

hummingbirds may be the pygmies of the avian world, but what they lack in size they make up for in beauty regrettably, most of the candidates for the party's nomination that year were political pygmies
Recent Examples on the Web Creatures great and small At Perth Zoo, species that were detected spanned in size from the pygmy marmoset to the Asian elephant. Katie Hunt, CNN, 5 Feb. 2024 In Kanye West, Trump sees himself — as another member of the masculine mind that the pygmies won’t deny. Jayson Buford, Rolling Stone, 13 Feb. 2024 The zoo said pygmy slow lorises are the most endangered primate of their kind — a non-lemur prosimian, which are considered more primitive than monkeys and apes. Makiya Seminera, Charlotte Observer, 31 Jan. 2024 The wildlife agency is also revising the status of the pygmy rabbit, the smallest species of rabbit in North America. Aliza Chasan, CBS News, 24 Jan. 2024 Living dwarfs and pygmies were rare and highly coveted, believed to have special powers of their own, and the young king badly wanted one. Joshua Rapp Learn, Discover Magazine, 22 Dec. 2023 However, Dahl’s original characters, the African pygmies, were never a consideration. Robert Ito, New York Times, 15 Dec. 2023 Identifiers of pygmy rattlesnakes are blotches on both their back and sides and a possible reddish-brown stripe down the spine. Cole Sikes Communications and Marketing Specialist Alabama Cooperative Extension System, al, 25 Apr. 2023 There are less than 2,500 adult pygmy hippos left in the wild in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Zoe Sottile, CNN, 25 Dec. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pygmy.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English pigmei, from Latin pygmaeus of a pygmy, dwarfish, from Greek pygmaios, from pygmē fist, measure of length — more at pungent

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of pygmy was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near pygmy

Cite this Entry

“Pygmy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pygmy. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition

pygmy

noun
pyg·​my ˈpig-mē How to pronounce pygmy (audio)
plural pygmies
1
capitalized : one of a small people of equatorial Africa ranging under five feet (1.5 meters) in height
2
: a person or thing very small for its kind : dwarf
pygmy adjective
Etymology

Middle English pigmei "pygmy, dwarf," from Latin pygmaeus (noun and adjective) "pygmy, dwarfish," from Greek pygmaios (same meaning), literally, "one no longer than the forearm," from pygmē "fist, measure of length from the elbow to the knuckles"

Word Origin
In ancient Greek the word pygmē was used to mean "a measure of length from the elbow to the knuckles." It also came to refer to the fist. From this word Greek writers formed the word pygmaios for "a tiny person no longer than the forearm." They were assumed to be writing about imaginary figures, not real people. Later, this Greek word was taken into Latin as pygmaeus, meaning "dwarf." From Latin pygmaeus English formed the word pygmy. In the 19th century this word was applied to a member of a race of small people found living in Africa.

Medical Definition

pygmy

noun
pyg·​my
variants also pigmy
plural pygmies also pigmies
1
capitalized : any of a small people of equatorial Africa ranging under five feet (1.5 meters) in height
2
: a relatively short or small individual : dwarf
pygmy adjective

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