Did You Know?
It's no secret that balmy is derived from balm, an aromatic ointment or fragrance that heals or soothes. So when did it come to mean "foolish," you might wonder? Balmy goes back to the 15th century and was often used in contexts referring to weather, such as "a balmy breeze" or, as Mark Twain wrote in Tom Sawyer, "The balmy summer air, the restful quiet...." Around the middle of the 19th century, it developed a new sense suggesting a weak or unbalanced mind. It is uncertain if the soft quality or the soothing effect of balm influenced this use. But later in the century, balmy became altered to barmy in its "crazy" sense. This alteration may have come about from a mix-up with another barmy, meaning "full of froth or ferment." That barmy is from barm, a term for the yeast formed on fermenting malt liquors, which can indeed make one act balmy.
"Men often don't moisturize their skin during the hotter months, but should. It's a misconception that oily skin doesn't get dehydrated. Use a lightweight moisturizer that isn't heavy or sticky in balmy weather." — Joane Amay, Ebony, June 2018
"He arose with the first peep of day, and sallied forth to enjoy the balmy breeze of morning...." — Thomas Love Peacock, Headlong Hall, 1816
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Unscramble the letters to create an adjective that can mean "exerting a soothing influence" or "of mild and tolerant disposition": NTLEINE.VIEW THE ANSWER
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