Definition of pygmy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpiɡmē/
(also pigmy)

noun (plural pygmies)

1 (Pygmy) A member of certain peoples of very short stature in equatorial Africa and parts of Southeast Asia.
Example sentences
  • The earliest known inhabitants of South Africa were Pygmies and Khoisan.
  • The original inhabitants were the Pygmies, but only a few thousand remain.
  • Their physical features - short stature, dark skin, peppercorn hair and large buttocks - are characteristic of African Pygmies.
2chiefly derogatory A very small person, animal, or thing.
Example sentences
  • The fall of a Titan is always much more shocking than the stumble of a pygmy.
  • Home rule has fallen into the hands of insecure, paranoid, self-protecting pygmies.
  • However, the Oompa-Loompas, a rare tribe of identical pygmies (all played by Deep Roy) who work for Wonka provoke mixed feelings.
dwarf, midget, very small person, homunculus, manikin;
informal shrimp
2.1 [usually with adjective] An insignificant person, especially one who is deficient in a particular respect: he regarded them as intellectual pigmies
More example sentences
  • Even with the slight handicap of having to speak in English, Mr Fischer would have these intellectual pygmies for breakfast.
  • I seek to be neither an intellectual nor a spiritual pygmy.
  • We have a scientific social system in which intellectual pygmies are standing in judgment of giants.
lightweight, mediocrity, nonentity, nobody, no-name, cipher;
small fry
informal pipsqueak, no-hoper, picayune

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.


1(Of a person or thing) very small.
Example sentences
  • The benevolent dwarf countenances were gone, and they all looked like pygmy monsters out of an old horror movie.
  • Skeptics find this possibility implausible, arguing that it's more likely this individual was just a pygmy human with some genetic defect.
1.1 (pygmy) Used in names of animals and plants that are much smaller than more typical kinds, e.g., pygmy hippopotamus, pygmy water lily.
Example sentences
  • Moreover, some predators of pygmy swordtails (X. nigrensis) also exhibit a bias for the sword.
  • The pygmy hippo, which is the smallest species, occurs in West Africa, especially in or near rivers, lakes, and swamps.
  • The species lived with pygmy elephants and giant lizards on a remote island in Indonesia.



Pronunciation: /ˈpiɡmēən/
Pronunciation: /piɡˈmēən/
( archaic)
Example sentences
  • Evidence of this may still be found in the fact that the present-day pygmean aborigines of the Andaman Islands possess fire and keep it burning continuously.
  • The reputation of the tavern, under its pygmean proprietor, was but brief, as the "unparalleled" Coan, as he is styled, died within two years.


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'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pyg·my

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