1 : marked by a foreboding of death or calamity
2 a : marked by an otherworldly air or attitude
3 a : excessively refined : precious
b : quaintly unconventional : campy
Did You Know?
Fey is a word that defies its own (original) 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 20th century did the word's most recent meanings, "precious" and "campy," find their way into the dictionary.
"Often I slipped into one of a few personas I had invented to make myself feel more authentically magical. Sometimes I was Cassandra, a husky-voiced Southern belle who called everyone 'honey child.' Other times I became Gabriel, a fey mystic with an accent that I imagined to be French-ish." — Bennett Madison, The New York Times, 5 Sept. 2016
"What children get is something even better. They get a Batman who isn't invulnerable and who needs his friends. They get a fey, effeminate hero who is every bit as brave and talented as his mentor…." — Louis McEvoy, Cherwell (Oxford University), 25 Feb. 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Unscramble the letters to create a synonym of fey that refers to an otherworldly quality: FNEIL.VIEW THE ANSWER
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