Dictionary Definition

flibbertigibbet n : a female fool [syn: foolish woman]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

  • a RP /ˌflɪbətiˈdʒɪbɪt/
  • a US /ˈflɪbɚtiˌdʒɪbɪt/

Etymology

From late first attested 1549 probably imitative of nonsense uttered by gossips. Usage as an imp or fiend and name of the Devil from around 1603.

Noun

  1. An offbeat, skittish person; especially said of a young woman.
  2. An imp, a fiend.

Quotations

Translations

offbeat, skittish person
  • Polish: trzpiotka, gaduła

References

  • Webster 1913
  • Online Etymology Dictionary

Extensive Definition

Flibbertigibbet is an old English word referring to a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young female. In modern use it is used as a slang term, especially in Yorkshire, for a gossipy or overly talkative person.
It may also refer to two separate cultural figures:
In Anglo-Saxon mythology Flibbertigibbet is apprentice to Wayland Smith, who becomes exasperated with his behaviour and throws him down a hill, where he transforms into a stone.
In Shakespeare's King Lear (IV, i (1605)), he is one of the five fiends Edgar (in the posture of a beggar, 'poor Tom') claimed was possessing him. Shakespeare got the name from Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603), where one reads of 40 fiends, which Jesuits cast out and among which was Fliberdigibbet, a name that had been previously used by Latimer and others for a mischievous gossip. Elsewhere the name is apparently a synonym for Puck. Its origin is in a meaningless representation of chattering.
In The Sound of Music, in the song, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?", a nun named Catherine calls Maria a flibbertigibbet.
When announcing her support for Hillary Clinton during the Democratic Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2008 , the word was used by Elizabeth Taylor to describe what Hillary Clinton was "not".
flibbertigibbet in German: Flibbertigibbet
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