pedestrian

[ puh-des-tree-uhn ]
/ pəˈdɛs tri ən /

noun

a person who goes or travels on foot; walker.

adjective

going or performed on foot; walking.
of or relating to walking.
lacking in vitality, imagination, distinction, etc.; commonplace; prosaic or dull: a pedestrian commencement speech.

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Origin of pedestrian

1710–20; <Latin pedestri- (stem of pedester on foot, derivative of pēs (stem ped-); see pedi-) + -an

OTHER WORDS FROM pedestrian

non·pe·des·tri·an, noun, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

VOCAB BUILDER

What does pedestrian mean?

A pedestrian is a person who travels by foot—a walker. The term is especially used in the context of road safety to distinguish people walking from people driving or riding bikes.

In this sense, the word is also commonly used as an adjective to refer to things involving pedestrians, such as in pedestrian crossing, pedestrian safety, and pedestrian walkway.

Example: Pedestrians will continue to be struck by cars unless we improve and enforce pedestrian safety laws. 

Pedestrian is also a negative term for something considered mediocre, uninspired, or lacking in originality. It’s especially used in artistic criticism, such as in reviews of music, movies, fashion, or food. Calling something pedestrian is typically considered an insult.

Example: Don’t you think that sweater is a little pedestrian? You want to dress to impress, right?

Where does pedestrian come from?

The word pedestrian gained popularity as a word meaning “walker” in the 1700s. It comes from the Latin pedester, meaning “on foot,” from the root pēs, meaning “foot.” The root pēs and its variant ped- give us a lot of words related to feet, such as pedal and pedicure.

Throughout much of human history, you either walked or rode a horse—you were either a pedestrian or an equestrian. Then came chariots, and coaches, and bicycles, and cars. And things got a bit dangerous for people traveling by foot. Today, the word pedestrian is almost always used in the context of safety for walkers in a world with so many cars speeding around. The word is especially used in reference to areas reserved for pedestrians, such as pedestrian crosswalks and pedestrian bridges.

Walking is a good thing—noble, even—but those chariot-riding snobs sometimes looked down upon the common people who had to walk everywhere. This may be why pedestrian came to mean “commonplace” or “dull” in a way that lacks originality or inspiration. Something described as pedestrian might not be terrible, but it’s been done before—there’s nothing special about it. The word can be applied to anything considered mediocre. A bland dish at a restaurant, a boring sitcom, an unoriginal plot, or someone’s uninspired fashion sense could all be described as pedestrian. But if you use the word, be prepared for it to be taken as an insult—perhaps one that makes you sound like one of those condescending charioteers.

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What are some other forms related to pedestrian?

What are some synonyms for pedestrian?

What are some words that share a root or word element with pedestrian

 

 

What are some words that often get used in discussing pedestrian?

How is pedestrian used in real life?

Pedestrian is most commonly used in the context of traffic safety to differentiate between walkers, drivers, and bike riders. When it’s used to mean “commonplace” or “mediocre,” it’s always negative.

 

 

Try using pedestrian!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of pedestrian?

A. exceptional
B. commonplace
C. unoriginal
D. mediocre

Example sentences from the Web for pedestrian

British Dictionary definitions for pedestrian

pedestrian
/ (pɪˈdɛstrɪən) /

noun

  1. a person travelling on foot; walker
  2. (as modifier)a pedestrian precinct

adjective

dull; commonplacea pedestrian style of writing

Word Origin for pedestrian

C18: from Latin pedester, from pēs foot
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