"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Coxcomb and Coxcomical

Coxcomb is a noun - an archaic term for a vain and conceited man; a dandy; a fop.

The term was also used for a  jester's cap.  Such caps were often decorated with a piece of red cockscomb.   In Medieval times such caps usually had three points representing the ears and tail of a donkey that jester's wore in earlier times.

Thirdly, the word is still in use as a variant spelling of cockscomb - the fleshy red crest on the head of the domestic fowl and other gallinaceous birds.

The adjective from coxcomb was coxcombical or coxcomical, meaning foppish or conceited.  In 1755, Dr Johnson described coxcomical as a 'low word unworthy of use'. That's a shame - I think it's a wonderful word and wish it were still in common usage. 


  1. I knew the symbolical meaning but not sure I heard about the jester's hat being called that too.

  2. Lovely words both, but doesn't it seem like the second should be "coxcombical"? Without the "b", the pronunciation would seem likely to change from "ome" as in "comb" to "ahm" as in "comical". Aye?