Definition of popinjay in English:



  • 1dated A vain or conceited person, especially one who dresses or behaves extravagantly.

    • ‘The Premiership has produced a marvellous cast of popinjays and prima-donnas.’
    • ‘I am pretty sure I'm a drink-soaked popinjay myself, and formerly many things of a disreputable nature.’
    • ‘Preening popinjays, in love with the sound of their voice and the rightness of their opinions, how I hate them all.’
    • ‘These weedy fly-bitten popinjays, these pribbling clumsy clay-brained miscreants - how dare they think they can share the same job title as me?’
    • ‘Gillray so lovingly renders the popinjay, and we laugh so deeply at his pretensions, that the savagery of the social criticism, though devastating, is somewhat mitigated.’
    • ‘It is an oft-told story, but can still stir anger and pity, with the family feuding of the aristocratic popinjays commanding the brigade even spilling over onto the battlefield.’
    dandy, beau, poseur, glamour boy, man about town, bright young thing, rake
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  • 2archaic A parrot.

    • ‘Coloring inside the lines is for popinjays and cockatoos!’


Middle English: from Old French papingay, via Spanish from Arabic babbaġā. The change in the ending was due to association with jay.