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[pop-in-jey] /ˈpɒp ɪnˌdʒeɪ/
a person given to vain, pretentious displays and empty chatter; coxcomb; fop.
British Dialect. a woodpecker, especially the green woodpecker.
Archaic. the figure of a parrot usually fixed on a pole and used as a target in archery and gun shooting.
Archaic. a parrot.
Origin of popinjay
1275-1325; Middle English papejay, popingay, papinjai(e) < Middle French papegai, papingay parrot < Spanish papagayo < Arabic bab(ba)ghā' Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for popinjay
Historical Examples
  • Yes, I was thinking what a popinjay I should look in a cocked hat.

    Syd Belton George Manville Fenn
  • That it has given a peacock's strut to the popinjay Anthony Woodville.

    The Last Of The Barons, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
  • "Then will they miss seeing a man, and not a popinjay," I retorted.

    To Have and To Hold Mary Johnston
  • Am I to be shot at like a popinjay at a fair, by any reaver or outlaw that seeks a mark for his bow?

    Sir Nigel Arthur Conan Doyle
  • You should see the figure you cut with that popinjay in your arms.

    The Shadow of Life Anne Douglas Sedgwick
  • I'll be shot if you shall have an invitation to Lancaster Park, you popinjay!

    Lancaster's Choice Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller
  • Then will they miss seeing a man, and not a popinjay, I retorted.

    By order of the company Mary Johnston
  • Taylor, the water poet, mentions the popinjay at Ewell, in 1636.

  • Two only of those who followed in order succeeded in hitting the popinjay.

  • But the popinjay could not sing, and had no invitation to stay.

    Dorothy and other Italian Stories Constance Fenimore Woolson
British Dictionary definitions for popinjay


a conceited, foppish, or excessively talkative person
an archaic word for parrot
the figure of a parrot used as a target
Word Origin
C13 papeniai, from Old French papegay a parrot, from Spanish papagayo, from Arabic babaghā
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for popinjay

late 13c., "a parrot," from Old French papegai (12c.), from Spanish papagayo, from Arabic babagha', Persian babgha "parrot," possibly formed in an African or other non-Indo-European language and imitative of its cry. Ending probably assimilated in Western European languages to "jay" words (Old French jai, etc.).

Used of people in a complimentary sense (in allusion to beauty and rarity) from early 14c.; meaning "vain, talkative person" is first recorded 1520s. Obsolete figurative sense of "a target to shoot at" is explained by Cotgrave's 2nd sense definition: "also a woodden parrot (set up on the top of a steeple, high tree, or pole) whereat there is, in many parts of France, a generall shooting once euerie yeare; and an exemption, for all that yeare, from La Taille, obtained by him that strikes downe" all or part of the bird.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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