- Of or like Mr. Pickwick in Dickens’ “Pickwick Papers,” especially in being jovial, plump, or generous.
- (Of words or their senses) Misunderstood or misused; not literally meant, especially to avoid offense.
“He gave a Pickwickian speech, carefully worded so as not to ruffle any feathers.”
“On Sundays, our Pickwickian neighbor drops off a basket of vegetables from his garden and stays to chat for a while.”
“It’s fine to be Pickwickian in your word choices on occasion, but make sure you’re not losing the meaning.”
From proper name, mid-18th century
Why this word?
Victorian-era novelist Charles Dickens is renowned for his contributions to the English language, especially with eponyms — words created after people’s names. While Dickens himself didn’t coin these words (as he did “messiness,” “sawbones,” and “comfoozled”), his characters are so vivid that their names have been adapted to describe many human traits. “Pickwickian” describes a jovial, generous sort; to be “micawberish” is to be optimistic against all odds; and perhaps most notably, a “scrooge” is a miserly misanthrope.
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