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.

    • ‘The report in the Times names the Aka Pygmies, a hunter-gatherer tribe from the northern Congo, as the best fathers.’
    • ‘The existence of the pygmies used to be mentioned in the history textbooks but is now almost nowhere to be found.’
    • ‘King knew the Akas' music, having loved it since 1975, when he set an ensemble piece, Zulu, to music of the Pygmies.’
    • ‘Modern pygmies have big brains because their small size is achieved in a different way, by a slowing of growth around puberty.’
    • ‘The fact is that both Pygmies and Khoisan were still hunter-gatherers without crops and livestock.’
    • ‘This vehicle appeared as if it were assembled by Pygmies with their feet.’
    • ‘And ‘Periyar’ gave more than the literal meaning of an ‘old man’: a man of wisdom and rationalist thinking who dwarfed pigmies.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘Authorities found it difficult to obtain blood samples from local inhabitants, many of whom are Pygmies.’
    • ‘The other one, I remember very well, was a film of pygmies in Cameroon building a bridge across a jungle river.’
    • ‘And this was the PC version: originally they were a black-skinned African pygmy tribe.’
    • ‘Their physical features - short stature, dark skin, peppercorn hair and large buttocks - are characteristic of African Pygmies.’
    • ‘The earliest known inhabitants of South Africa were Pygmies and Khoisan.’
    • ‘I'm thinking of groups such as the Pygmies and certain indigenous groups in Mexico.’
    • ‘But a country that is even closer to Indonesia is Australia and there are still pygmies in Australia too.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Thus, Pygmies exhibit the highest level of diversity in this small sample of sub-Saharan Africans.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 2derogatory A very small person, animal, or thing.

    • ‘The fall of a Titan is always much more shocking than the stumble of a pygmy.’
    • ‘Come to think of it, I haven't heard much about the pygmies lately.’
    • ‘This comes as the climax to a positive blizzard of bans, both from Westminster and its pygmy parody at Holyrood.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Home rule has fallen into the hands of insecure, paranoid, self-protecting pygmies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Small dinky lorries were lined up, their drivers like pygmies from another world than that of the steel ship.’
    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’
      • ‘Those that remain are political pygmies, lacking anything like the independent power needed to dominate the country.’
      • ‘We have a scientific social system in which intellectual pygmies are standing in judgment of giants.’
      • ‘That is quite a feat considering he was a political pygmy in the first place.’
      • ‘I seek to be neither an intellectual nor a spiritual pygmy.’
      • ‘And yet the literary giant confesses himself to be a pygmy in his relationship with language.’
      • ‘How long will this intellectual pygmy spend his time hiding behind the Building Industry taskforce?’
      • ‘Diplomatically and militarily, Europe is still a pygmy.’
      • ‘Modern football is about money, and Arsenal are financial pygmies when compared to Europe's elite.’
      • ‘Military and economic giants will not be outvoted or pushed around by hordes of pygmies.’
      • ‘One wonders what group of mental pygmies in the department of foreign affairs or immigration fixed our gaze on East Timor.’
      • ‘Even with the slight handicap of having to speak in English, Mr Fischer would have these intellectual pygmies for breakfast.’
      • ‘It's the ultimate bureaucratic skill - and the key to emerging as the consensus pygmy when the giants are at each other's throats.’
      insignificant person, lightweight, mediocrity, nobody, gnat, insect, cipher
      View synonyms

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.

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The Oregon Zoo developed husbandry techniques to breed pygmy rabbits in captivity.’
    • ‘He's grown up now into a beautiful pigmy goat, but Gilly still believes he's her baby and loves him to bits.’
    • ‘The gestation period was five months, a timetable shared by the slender-horned gazelle, blackbuck antelope, and pygmy goat.’
    • ‘Adrienne Zihlman remarked: ‘Lucy's fossil remains match up remarkably well with the bones of a pygmy chimp.’’
    • ‘The pygmy hippo, which is the smallest species, occurs in West Africa, especially in or near rivers, lakes, and swamps.’
    • ‘Then I ramble through pygmy pine trees with shaggy bark, and mountain mahogany bushes with long white flowers that twist up like corkscrews.’
    • ‘The pygmy falcon in southern Africa depends entirely on sociable weaver nests for breeding.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A new addition to the livestock on show was the pygmy goat class, which attracted a lot of attention from the curious crowds.’
    • ‘The species lived with pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia.’
    • ‘There are also many instances of mammals becoming a dwarf or pygmy variety on islands.’
    • ‘For instance, the pygmy sculpin is known only from Coldwater Spring, part of the Coosa River system of northeast Alabama.’
    • ‘The Canadian songstress was in Jakarta when a fan proposed that she exchange her pet pygmy loris for a concert ticket.’
    • ‘Dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart disease found in humans, has afflicted the pygmy sperm whale and the dwarf sperm whale.’
    • ‘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.’
    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.’
      • ‘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 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.’
      • ‘The benevolent dwarf countenances were gone, and they all looked like pygmy monsters out of an old horror movie.’
      • ‘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.’
      tiny, minuscule, microscopic, nanoscopic, very small, little, micro, diminutive, miniature, baby, toy, midget, dwarf, pygmy, lilliputian
      View synonyms

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/