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or Pigmy

[pig-mee] /ˈpɪg mi/
noun, plural Pygmies.
  1. a member of a small-statured people native to equatorial Africa.
  2. a Negrito of southeastern Asia, or of the Andaman or Philippine islands.
(lowercase) Disparaging and Offensive. a small or dwarfish person.
(lowercase) anything very small of its kind.
(lowercase) a person who is of small importance, or who has some quality, attribute, etc., in very small measure.
Classical Mythology. (in the Iliad) one of a race of dwarfs who fought battles with cranes, who preyed on them and destroyed their fields.
(often lowercase) of or relating to the Pygmies.
(lowercase) of very small size, capacity, power, etc.
Origin of Pygmy
1350-1400; Middle English pigmēis, plural of pigmē < Latin Pygmaeus < Greek pygmaîos dwarfish (adj.), Pygmy (noun), equivalent to pygm(ḗ) distance from elbow to knuckles + -aios adj. suffix
Related forms
pygmoid, adjective
pygmyish, adjective
pygmyism, noun
2. See dwarf. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for Pygmy
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • It was written about in the Pygmy histories, and talked about in their ancient traditions.

    Tanglewood Tales Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • They ran their eyes down the long table; every person there was a Pygmy.

    Prince Vance Eleanor Putnam
  • It was no Pygmy undertaking upon which the Americans had embarked.

  • Had I brought with me or did I hear now a whispered: "Pygmy, again!"

    The Thing from the Lake

    Eleanor M. Ingram
  • "This one might be a Pygmy, for all we know," said the Very Young Man.

    The Girl in the Golden Atom

    Raymond King Cummings
British Dictionary definitions for Pygmy


noun (pl) -mies
an abnormally undersized person
something that is a very small example of its type
a person of little importance or significance
(modifier) of very small stature or size
Derived Forms
pygmaean, pygmean (pɪɡˈmiːən) adjective
Word Origin
C14 pigmeis the Pygmies, from Latin Pygmaeus a Pygmy, from Greek pugmaios undersized, from pugmē fist


noun (pl) -mies
a member of one of the dwarf peoples of Equatorial Africa, noted for their hunting and forest culture
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 Pygmy



late 14c., Pigmei, "member of a fabulous race of dwarfs," described by Homer and Herodotus and said to inhabit Egypt or Ethiopia and India, from Latin Pygmaei (singular Pygmaeus), from Greek Pygmaioi, plural of Pygmaios "a Pygmy," noun use of adjective meaning "dwarfish," literally "of the length of a pygme; a pygme tall," from pygme "cubit," literally "fist," the measure of length from the elbow to the knuckle; related to pyx "with clenched fist" and to Latin pugnus "fist" (see pugnacious).

Figurative use for "person of small importance" is from 1590s. Believed in 17c. to refer to chimpanzees or orangutans, and occasionally the word was used in this sense. The ancient word was applied by Europeans to the equatorial African race 1863, but the tribes probably were known to the ancients and likely were the original inspiration for the legend. As an adjective from 1590s. Related: Pygmean; Pygmaean.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Pygmy in Medicine

pygmy pyg·my (pĭg'mē)

  1. An individual of unusually small size.

  2. Pygmy A member of any of various peoples, especially found in equatorial Africa and parts of southeast Asia, having an average height less than 5 feet.

Unusually or atypically small.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Pygmy in Culture

Pygmy definition

A member of any ethnic group in which the average height of the adult male is less than four feet, eleven inches. There are Pygmy tribes in dense rain-forest areas of central Africa, southern India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The most widely studied Pygmies are the Mbuti of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, who pursue a nomadic hunting and gathering subsistence (see nomadism and hunting and gathering societies), but have established complex interdependent relationships with their non-Pygmy farming neighbors.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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