\ ˈfā How to pronounce fey (audio) \

Definition of fey

1a chiefly Scotland : fated to die : doomed
b : marked by a foreboding of death or calamity another and lesser man … gave a fey lonely warning— Hodding Carter
2a : able to see into the future : visionary Not being fey, he never suspected what it would lead to.
b : marked by an otherworldly air or attitude she had that half shy, half fey smile and that birdlike perkiness— A. G. Ogden
c : crazy, touched
3a : excessively refined : precious a fey, self-indulgent dandy
b : quaintly unconventional : campy … audiences howl at her off-center delivery of fey folk songs and quaint special material.— Howard Teichmann

Other Words from fey

feyly adverb
feyness noun

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.

Examples of fey in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Back at work, she is eyed by her co-workers, the wonderfully fey Shane (Griffin Matthews) and the middle-aged worrier Megan (the terrific Rosie Perez). Doreen St. Félix, The New Yorker, 28 Dec. 2020 His business rivals include the louche Chinese gangster Dry Eye (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding) and a drab little ferret of a man called Matthew (Succession star Jeremy Strong, who delivers every line in a sort of strange, fey deadpan). Leah Greenblatt, EW.com, 23 Jan. 2020 But on the biographical front, the popular image of Dickinson as a fragile, fey, romantically disappointed recluse has been harder to shake. Jennifer Schuessler, New York Times, 30 Oct. 2019 And then there’s Brooks Ashmanskas as Ronnie Wilde: Martin’s fake boyfriend and instructor in all things fey. Jesse Green, New York Times, 8 July 2018 To some readers, Ms Moshfegh’s premise may seem fey and slight. The Economist, 12 July 2018 New wavers like Depeche Mode knit the supposedly frivolous and fey sounds of disco into their gloom. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 25 June 2018 Giacometti was a master of affixing tiny animals and curling leaves to the bronze framework of his designs, lending them a fey quality; Anthonioz eschews ornament, preferring sleek minimalist shapes. Nancy Hass, New York Times, 21 Feb. 2018 Pacino's Herod, who's married to Herodias (a steely Hart), Salomé's mother and the widow of the king's brother, is a singular creation: playful, taunting, persuasive, a bit fey. Gary Goldstein, latimes.com, 29 Mar. 2018 See More

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

First Known Use of fey

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for fey

Middle English feye, from Old English fǣge; akin to Old High German feigi doomed and perhaps to Old English fāh hostile, outlawed — more at foe

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The first known use of fey was before the 12th century

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Cite this Entry

“Fey.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fey. Accessed 24 Sep. 2022.

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