Word for Wednesday: Brobdingnagian

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This week I’d like to feature a rather unusual adjective from literature and it’s one of those words whose very sound and structure resonate with its meaning. Not dissimilar to an onomatopoeic word; crash, giggle, whack.

In Jonathan Swift’s 18th century novel Gulliver’s Travels, the travelling protagonist, Gulliver, finds himself cast adrift in uncharted lands seemingly governed by otherworldly dimensions.

Eventually, Gulliver reaches the Island of Brobdingnag – a land of giants where Gulliver is the size of a tin soldier. The fantastical Isle of Brobdingnag gives us our Swiftian word for the week.

Something that is enormous or gargantuan in scale can be referred to as Brobdingnagian. How about that for a mouthful? Read the word aloud a few times… can you not almost hear the thundering thump of a giant’s footsteps?

The word Brobdingnagian has since joined the exclusive roster of nonsensical words from literature to be published in the dictionary. See our earlier blog on words from literature for more fun examples.

Now that you’ve added Brobdingnagian to your lexicon, I’m sure some of you will have fun dropping it into essays and the like, but don’t get us into trouble!

Hugh MacDermott

27 Nov 2013
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"

Teacher, High School, UK