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popinjay

[pop-in-jey]
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noun
  1. a person given to vain, pretentious displays and empty chatter; coxcomb; fop.
  2. British Dialect. a woodpecker, especially the green woodpecker.
  3. Archaic. the figure of a parrot usually fixed on a pole and used as a target in archery and gun shooting.
  4. Archaic. a parrot.
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Origin of popinjay

1275–1325; Middle English papejay, popingay, papinjai(e) < Middle French papegai, papingay parrot < Spanish papagayo < Arabic bab(ba)ghā'
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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.

  • "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


British Dictionary definitions for popinjay

popinjay

noun
  1. a conceited, foppish, or excessively talkative person
  2. an archaic word for parrot
  3. the figure of a parrot used as a target
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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

Word Origin and History for popinjay

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper