Definition of pygmy in English:

pygmy

(also pigmy)

noun

  • 1A member of certain peoples of very short stature in equatorial Africa and parts of SE Asia. Pygmies (e.g. the Mbuti and Twa peoples) are typically nomadic hunter-gatherers with an average male height not above 150 cm (4 ft 11 in.).

    • ‘And this was the PC version: originally they were a black-skinned African pygmy tribe.’
    • ‘I'm thinking of groups such as the Pygmies and certain indigenous groups in Mexico.’
    • ‘This vehicle appeared as if it were assembled by Pygmies with their feet.’
    • ‘‘The scaling of brain to body isn't at all what we'd expect to find in Pygmies, and the shape is all wrong to be a microcephalic,’ Falk said.’
    • ‘The fact is that both Pygmies and Khoisan were still hunter-gatherers without crops and livestock.’
    • ‘Modern pygmies have big brains because their small size is achieved in a different way, by a slowing of growth around puberty.’
    • ‘The existence of the pygmies used to be mentioned in the history textbooks but is now almost nowhere to be found.’
    • ‘Their physical features - short stature, dark skin, peppercorn hair and large buttocks - are characteristic of African Pygmies.’
    • ‘In groups such as the Efe and Aka Pygmies of central Africa, allomothers actually hold children and carry them about.’
    • ‘The original inhabitants were the Pygmies, but only a few thousand remain.’
    • ‘The other one, I remember very well, was a film of pygmies in Cameroon building a bridge across a jungle river.’
    • ‘King knew the Akas' music, having loved it since 1975, when he set an ensemble piece, Zulu, to music of the Pygmies.’
    • ‘The report in the Times names the Aka Pygmies, a hunter-gatherer tribe from the northern Congo, as the best fathers.’
    • ‘It took the film-makers two years to settle into a village of Pygmies and six months of warming up before they even began filming.’
    • ‘The earliest known inhabitants of South Africa were Pygmies and Khoisan.’
    • ‘Authorities found it difficult to obtain blood samples from local inhabitants, many of whom are Pygmies.’
    • ‘And ‘Periyar’ gave more than the literal meaning of an ‘old man’: a man of wisdom and rationalist thinking who dwarfed pigmies.’
    • ‘But a country that is even closer to Indonesia is Australia and there are still pygmies in Australia too.’
    • ‘Thus, Pygmies exhibit the highest level of diversity in this small sample of sub-Saharan Africans.’
  • 2derogatory A very small person, animal, or thing:

    ‘Charles VIII of France was a pygmy’
    ‘they were pygmies compared to the current satellites’
    • ‘However, the Oompa-Loompas, a rare tribe of identical pygmies (all played by Deep Roy) who work for Wonka provoke mixed feelings.’
    • ‘At the last, Malraux had fallen among mere mortals, a giant carried on the shoulders of pygmies.’
    • ‘Small dinky lorries were lined up, their drivers like pygmies from another world than that of the steel ship.’
    • ‘This comes as the climax to a positive blizzard of bans, both from Westminster and its pygmy parody at Holyrood.’
    • ‘Come to think of it, I haven't heard much about the pygmies lately.’
    • ‘The fall of a Titan is always much more shocking than the stumble of a pygmy.’
    • ‘It could be the worst of all worlds - a hard-right party, led by pygmies and novices, holding the balance of power.’
    • ‘In case I should be thought a literary pygmy I should mention that I have actually studied literature to postgraduate level.’
    • ‘Home rule has fallen into the hands of insecure, paranoid, self-protecting pygmies.’
    very small person, person of restricted growth
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1 A person who is insignificant or is deficient in a particular respect:
      ‘he regarded them as intellectual pygmies’
      • ‘Those that remain are political pygmies, lacking anything like the independent power needed to dominate the country.’
      • ‘It's the ultimate bureaucratic skill - and the key to emerging as the consensus pygmy when the giants are at each other's throats.’
      • ‘Diplomatically and militarily, Europe is still a pygmy.’
      • ‘And yet the literary giant confesses himself to be a pygmy in his relationship with language.’
      • ‘Modern football is about money, and Arsenal are financial pygmies when compared to Europe's elite.’
      • ‘That is quite a feat considering he was a political pygmy in the first place.’
      • ‘Military and economic giants will not be outvoted or pushed around by hordes of pygmies.’
      • ‘We have a scientific social system in which intellectual pygmies are standing in judgment of giants.’
      • ‘How long will this intellectual pygmy spend his time hiding behind the Building Industry taskforce?’
      • ‘Even with the slight handicap of having to speak in English, Mr Fischer would have these intellectual pygmies for breakfast.’
      • ‘One wonders what group of mental pygmies in the department of foreign affairs or immigration fixed our gaze on East Timor.’
      • ‘I seek to be neither an intellectual nor a spiritual pygmy.’
      insignificant person, lightweight, mediocrity, nobody, gnat, insect, cipher
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adjective

  • 1Used in names of animals and plants that are much smaller than more typical kinds, e.g. pygmy shrew, pygmy water lily.

    • ‘The Canadian songstress was in Jakarta when a fan proposed that she exchange her pet pygmy loris for a concert ticket.’
    • ‘Moreover, some predators of pygmy swordtails (X. nigrensis) also exhibit a bias for the sword.’
    • ‘The pygmy hippo, which is the smallest species, occurs in West Africa, especially in or near rivers, lakes, and swamps.’
    • ‘The gestation period was five months, a timetable shared by the slender-horned gazelle, blackbuck antelope, and pygmy goat.’
    • ‘In Florida, more people are probably bitten by pigmy rattlesnakes than by any other poisonous snake.’
    • ‘These folks lived on the Indonesian island of Flores, happily hunting pygmy elephants and giant rats, until a volcano did them in about 12,000 years ago.’
    • ‘We started off at Tropical World where we saw huge butterflies, pygmy monkeys, snakes and all sorts of fish.’
    • ‘The pygmy falcon in southern Africa depends entirely on sociable weaver nests for breeding.’
    • ‘He's grown up now into a beautiful pigmy goat, but Gilly still believes he's her baby and loves him to bits.’
    • ‘Adrienne Zihlman remarked: ‘Lucy's fossil remains match up remarkably well with the bones of a pygmy chimp.’’
    • ‘The species lived with pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia.’
    • ‘The Oregon Zoo developed husbandry techniques to breed pygmy rabbits in captivity.’
    • ‘A new addition to the livestock on show was the pygmy goat class, which attracted a lot of attention from the curious crowds.’
    • ‘For instance, the pygmy sculpin is known only from Coldwater Spring, part of the Coosa River system of northeast Alabama.’
    • ‘Dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease found in humans, has afflicted the pygmy sperm whale and the dwarf sperm whale.’
    • ‘I'd like a pygmy hippo for overland journeys, and a manatee for underwater travel.’
    • ‘These actions will also benefit pygmy rabbits and sage grouse that use the area as rearing habitat.’
    • ‘There are also many instances of mammals becoming a dwarf or pygmy variety on islands.’
    • ‘It was a dwarf species located on the Indonesian island of Flores, which it shared with pigmy elephants and Komodo dragons.’
    • ‘Then I ramble through pygmy pine trees with shaggy bark, and mountain mahogany bushes with long white flowers that twist up like corkscrews.’
    1. 1.1derogatory Very small or insignificant.
      • ‘The theatre celebrated its silver jubilee with the same commitment that made it emerge as a pygmy presence in a remote corner of a huge city, where now it is a landmark.’
      • ‘They saw it now rise like a pigmy moon and climb zenithward and hang overhead and sink westward with the passing of the night.’
      • ‘Looking like a pygmy version of the old Atari 2600, the Atari Flashback 2 ($30) is a retro-inspired collection of Atari games, 20 classic and 20 new, along with two joysticks in one easy pack.’
      • ‘The plants had a stunted look. They weren't dried out, just miniature. A pygmy garden.’
      • ‘Most visitors to the annual motor show in the city were amused by what seemed to be a pygmy four-wheeler.’
      tiny, minuscule, microscopic, nanoscopic, very small, little, micro, diminutive, miniature, baby, toy, midget, dwarf, pygmy, lilliputian
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Origin

Late Middle English (originally in the plural, denoting a mythological race of small people): via Latin from Greek pugmaios dwarf, from pugmē the length measured from elbow to knuckles.

Pronunciation

pygmy

/ˈpɪɡmi/