Word of the Week: Brobdingnagian

Word: Brobdingnagian

Pronunciation: brahb-ding-NA-ɡee-ən

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: gigantic

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Raj: You said I could buy a desk.

Sheldon: This isn’t a desk. This is a Brobdingnagian monstrosity.

Raj: Is that the American idiom for giant, big-ass desk?

The Big Bang Theory (Season 4, Episode 4 – The Hot Troll Deviation)

If you’ve watched this episode of The Big Bang Theory, you probably visualized Raj’s comically huge desk while reading the above dialogue. During a workplace feud between Sheldon and Raj (who are working together), Raj decides to mess with Sheldon by buying himself a desk that takes up half their office. Sheldon then complains about its ridiculous size using an equally ridiculous word, and though it sounds unusual, it nonetheless captures the absurdity of the situation. Where all other adjectives fail, nothing says “comically gigantic” like “Brobdingnagian”!

Anything described as “Brobdingnagian” is gigantic in size. The word arose in the early 18th century and was invented by Irish author Jonathan Swift, who used it in his satirical novel Gulliver’s Travels. This word comes from the name of Swift’s fictional land Brobdingnag, which is occupied by giants.

Aside from its main use as an adjective, “Brobdingnagian” can also be used as a noun to refer to a giant person, as these were the colossal occupants of the aforementioned fictional land. Note that because it derives from a name, the word should always be capitalized. Its use is extremely rare (I’ve only ever heard it before on The Big Bang Theory), but it can certainly be used to humorous effect when describing something outstandingly enormous. If you write comedy full of giant people or things, “Brobdingnagian” may be an excellent word to use in your stories!

Sheldon: Help me move my desk.

[…]

Raj: No. It’s too Brobdingnagian.

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

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