[pig-mee] /ˈpɪg mi/

noun, plural Pygmies.

(lowercase) Disparaging and Offensive. a small or dwarfish person.
(lowercase) anything very small of its kind.
(lowercase) a person who is of small importance, or who has some quality, attribute, etc., in very small measure.
Classical Mythology. (in the Iliad) one of a race of dwarfs who fought battles with cranes, who preyed on them and destroyed their fields.
(often lowercase) of or relating to the Pygmies.
(lowercase) of very small size, capacity, power, etc.
noun (pl) -mies
an abnormally undersized person
something that is a very small example of its type
a person of little importance or significance
(modifier) of very small stature or size
noun (pl) -mies
a member of one of the dwarf peoples of Equatorial Africa, noted for their hunting and forest culture

late 14c., Pigmei, “member of a fabulous race of dwarfs,” described by Homer and Herodotus and said to inhabit Egypt or Ethiopia and India, from Latin Pygmaei (singular Pygmaeus), from Greek Pygmaioi, plural of Pygmaios “a Pygmy,” noun use of adjective meaning “dwarfish,” literally “of the length of a pygme; a pygme tall,” from pygme “cubit,” literally “fist,” the measure of length from the elbow to the knuckle; related to pyx “with clenched fist” and to Latin pugnus “fist” (see pugnacious).

Figurative use for “person of small importance” is from 1590s. Believed in 17c. to refer to chimpanzees or orangutans, and occasionally the word was used in this sense. The ancient word was applied by Europeans to the equatorial African race 1863, but the tribes probably were known to the ancients and likely were the original inspiration for the legend. As an adjective from 1590s. Related: Pygmean; Pygmaean.

pygmy pyg·my (pĭg’mē)

Unusually or atypically small.

A member of any ethnic group in which the average height of the adult male is less than four feet, eleven inches. There are Pygmy tribes in dense rain-forest areas of central Africa, southern India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The most widely studied Pygmies are the Mbuti of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, who pursue a nomadic hunting and gathering subsistence (see nomadism and hunting and gathering societies), but have established complex interdependent relationships with their non-Pygmy farming neighbors.


Read Also:

  • Pygmy-glider

    noun 1. a gliding marsupial, Acrobates pygmaeus, of Australia, growing to about the size of a mouse and having a featherlike tail. noun 1. a small arboreal marsupial, Acrobates pygmaeus, of Australia and New Guinea moving with gliding leaps using folds of skin between the hind limbs and forelimbs

  • Pygmy-hippopotamus

    noun 1. a small hippopotamus, Choeropsis liberiensis, of forests and swamps in western Africa.

  • Pygmy-owl

    noun 1. any of several small, diurnal owls of the genus Glaucidium, that feed chiefly on insects.

  • Pygmy possum

    noun 1. any of various small Australasian marsupials, esp the burramys

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