Definition of popinjay in US English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I am pretty sure I'm a drink-soaked popinjay myself, and formerly many things of a disreputable nature.’
    • ‘The Premiership has produced a marvellous cast of popinjays and prima-donnas.’
    • ‘Preening popinjays, in love with the sound of their voice and the rightness of their opinions, how I hate them all.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘These weedy fly-bitten popinjays, these pribbling clumsy clay-brained miscreants - how dare they think they can share the same job title as me?’
    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.