Word of the Week: Dickensian

Word: Dickensian

Pronunciation: də-KEN-zee-ən

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: of or reminiscent of the novels of Charles Dickens, especially in suggesting the poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters that they portray

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Continuing on last week’s theme of words derived from authors’ names, here’s another adjective that you’re probably familiar with. Today’s Word of the Week comes from the name of Charles Dickens, who was famous for writing stories that shed light on the lower social classes of Victorian England living in poverty and misery. His works were so influential that to this day, any setting involving poor conditions and social injustice can be described as “Dickensian”!

Anything described as “Dickensian” is reminiscent of Charles Dickens‘s writing. As an adjective, the word refers to the poor social conditions and comically repulsive characters in the author’s stories. The word can also function as a noun meaning “a person who studies or admires the works of Charles Dickens”.

Like the word “Orwellian”, “Dickensian” is a more complex adjective than dictionary definitions might have you believe: as the TED-Ed video below explains, while it has a negative connotation when describing settings and living/working conditions, it can also be considered high praise when describing a novel, as it implies a level of wit and creativity akin to that of the brilliant Charles Dickens. Also like “Orwellian”, “Dickensian” should always be capitalized because it derives from a proper noun. If you write stories about miserable conditions and unjust social situations, “Dickensian” is an excellent word to keep on your vocabulary list!

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

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