Definition of pygmy in US English:

pygmy

(also pigmy)

nounPlural Pygmies, Plural pygmies

  • 1A member of certain peoples of very short stature in equatorial Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.

    • ‘This vehicle appeared as if it were assembled by Pygmies with their feet.’
    • ‘Thus, Pygmies exhibit the highest level of diversity in this small sample of sub-Saharan Africans.’
    • ‘And this was the PC version: originally they were a black-skinned African pygmy tribe.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And ‘Periyar’ gave more than the literal meaning of an ‘old man’: a man of wisdom and rationalist thinking who dwarfed pigmies.’
    • ‘The report in the Times names the Aka Pygmies, a hunter-gatherer tribe from the northern Congo, as the best fathers.’
    • ‘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 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 earliest known inhabitants of South Africa were Pygmies and Khoisan.’
    • ‘But a country that is even closer to Indonesia is Australia and there are still pygmies in Australia too.’
    • ‘The original inhabitants were the Pygmies, but only a few thousand remain.’
    • ‘Authorities found it difficult to obtain blood samples from local inhabitants, many of whom are Pygmies.’
    • ‘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 existence of the pygmies used to be mentioned in the history textbooks but is now almost nowhere to be found.’
    • ‘Modern pygmies have big brains because their small size is achieved in a different way, by a slowing of growth around puberty.’
    • ‘I'm thinking of groups such as the Pygmies and certain indigenous groups in Mexico.’
    • ‘The fact is that both Pygmies and Khoisan were still hunter-gatherers without crops and livestock.’
  • 2derogatory A very small person, animal, or thing.

    • ‘Come to think of it, I haven't heard much about the pygmies lately.’
    • ‘At the last, Malraux had fallen among mere mortals, a giant carried on the shoulders of pygmies.’
    • ‘It could be the worst of all worlds - a hard-right party, led by pygmies and novices, holding the balance of power.’
    • ‘Home rule has fallen into the hands of insecure, paranoid, self-protecting pygmies.’
    • ‘However, the Oompa-Loompas, a rare tribe of identical pygmies (all played by Deep Roy) who work for Wonka provoke mixed feelings.’
    • ‘In case I should be thought a literary pygmy I should mention that I have actually studied literature to postgraduate level.’
    • ‘Small dinky lorries were lined up, their drivers like pygmies from another world than that of the steel ship.’
    • ‘The fall of a Titan is always much more shocking than the stumble of a pygmy.’
    • ‘This comes as the climax to a positive blizzard of bans, both from Westminster and its pygmy parody at Holyrood.’
    very small person, person of restricted growth
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1usually with adjective An insignificant person, especially one who is deficient in a particular respect.
      ‘he regarded them as intellectual pigmies’
      • ‘And yet the literary giant confesses himself to be a pygmy in his relationship with language.’
      • ‘Those that remain are political pygmies, lacking anything like the independent power needed to dominate the country.’
      • ‘I seek to be neither an intellectual nor a spiritual pygmy.’
      • ‘One wonders what group of mental pygmies in the department of foreign affairs or immigration fixed our gaze on East Timor.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Military and economic giants will not be outvoted or pushed around by hordes of pygmies.’
      • ‘How long will this intellectual pygmy spend his time hiding behind the Building Industry taskforce?’
      • ‘Modern football is about money, and Arsenal are financial pygmies when compared to Europe's elite.’
      • ‘Even with the slight handicap of having to speak in English, Mr Fischer would have these intellectual pygmies for breakfast.’
      • ‘That is quite a feat considering he was a political pygmy in the first place.’
      • ‘We have a scientific social system in which intellectual pygmies are standing in judgment of giants.’
      insignificant person, lightweight, mediocrity, nobody, gnat, insect, cipher
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Pygmies (e.g., the Mbuti and Twa peoples) are typically dark-skinned, nomadic hunter-gatherers with an average male height not above 150 cm (4 ft. 11 in.). See also Negrillo, Negrito

adjective

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

    • ‘A new addition to the livestock on show was the pygmy goat class, which attracted a lot of attention from the curious crowds.’
    • ‘The Oregon Zoo developed husbandry techniques to breed pygmy rabbits in captivity.’
    • ‘Adrienne Zihlman remarked: ‘Lucy's fossil remains match up remarkably well with the bones of a pygmy chimp.’’
    • ‘There are also many instances of mammals becoming a dwarf or pygmy variety on islands.’
    • ‘Dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease found in humans, has afflicted the pygmy sperm whale and the dwarf sperm whale.’
    • ‘In Florida, more people are probably bitten by pigmy rattlesnakes than by any other poisonous snake.’
    • ‘The gestation period was five months, a timetable shared by the slender-horned gazelle, blackbuck antelope, and pygmy goat.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Then I ramble through pygmy pine trees with shaggy bark, and mountain mahogany bushes with long white flowers that twist up like corkscrews.’
    • ‘For instance, the pygmy sculpin is known only from Coldwater Spring, part of the Coosa River system of northeast Alabama.’
    • ‘The pygmy falcon in southern Africa depends entirely on sociable weaver nests for breeding.’
    • ‘The species lived with pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia.’
    • ‘The pygmy hippo, which is the smallest species, occurs in West Africa, especially in or near rivers, lakes, and swamps.’
    • ‘These actions will also benefit pygmy rabbits and sage grouse that use the area as rearing habitat.’
    • ‘Moreover, some predators of pygmy swordtails (X. nigrensis) also exhibit a bias for the sword.’
    • ‘We started off at Tropical World where we saw huge butterflies, pygmy monkeys, snakes and all sorts of fish.’
    • ‘He's grown up now into a beautiful pigmy goat, but Gilly still believes he's her baby and loves him to bits.’
    • ‘The Canadian songstress was in Jakarta when a fan proposed that she exchange her pet pygmy loris for a concert ticket.’
    • ‘I'd like a pygmy hippo for overland journeys, and a manatee for underwater travel.’
    • ‘It was a dwarf species located on the Indonesian island of Flores, which it shared with pigmy elephants and Komodo dragons.’
    1. 1.1derogatory (of a person or thing) very small.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They saw it now rise like a pigmy moon and climb zenithward and hang overhead and sink westward with the passing of the night.’
      • ‘The plants had a stunted look. They weren't dried out, just miniature. A pygmy garden.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Most visitors to the annual motor show in the city were amused by what seemed to be a pygmy four-wheeler.’
      • ‘Skeptics find this possibility implausible, arguing that it's more likely this individual was just a pygmy human with some genetic defect.’
      • ‘The benevolent dwarf countenances were gone, and they all looked like pygmy monsters out of an old horror movie.’
      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

/ˈpiɡmē//ˈpɪɡmi/