I discovered today’s Word of the Day pretty recently, two days ago to be exact. I was perusing my old dictionary in search of synonyms for “gigantic” – let’s face it, “gigantic” is so unoriginal – when it caught my attention. My first thought was “Whaaatt?!?”, quickly followed by “Wait, how do you pronounce that?” and “What the heck does that even mean?”. My obvious bewilderment was a good sign as it meant I had found the perfect candidate to become the next Word of the Day. Without further ado, let me introduce you to my new lexical crush: brobdingnagian.
Yes, you read that right: brobdingnagian. If you are thinking that it looks ancient and barbaric, you may be surprised to learn that this word is actually quite recent as it did not appear in the English language until the first decades of the 18th century. Although it is recognised as an actual word it never really entered the common language and was mostly only ever used in the one book it first appeared in. So does brobdingnagian ring any bells yet?
Indeed, if you listened well in class or are an avid Swift fan (Jonathan Swift, not Taylor Swift, mind you) you may have remembered by now that Brobdingnag is one of the places Gulliver travels to.
Jonathan Swift’s famous book Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, more commonly known as Gulliver’s Travels, is divided into four main parts, the second of which is titled A Voyage to Brobdingnag. To be more precise, Brobdingnag, described as a country inhabited by giants, is the first place Gulliver reaches after escaping Lilliput.
After the fictional land of Brobdingnag and its inhabitants the Brobdingnagians were made famous by Gulliver’s Travels, the adjective brobdingnagian (pronounced /bɹɒbdɪŋˈnaɡɪən/) was coined. It is used to describe something pertaining to Brobdingnag, or more figuratively, anything enormous, huge, far larger than is customary for such a thing or really anything of colossal size.
Ex: Oh my God, look at this rabbit it’s almost as big as my pony! It is really brobdingnagian!
Now that you know all that, you may not be surprised to learn that the antonym of Brobdingnag is no other that lilliputian, but what else could it have been, really?