Some Words Derived from Literature

malapropism: an amusing misuse of words, especially by the confusing of similar sounds. Based upon Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's 18th-century play The Rivals. One example is: "He is the very pineapple of politeness."

bowdlerize: act of expurgating by omitting or modifying parts considered vulgar from Thomas Bowdler, an editor, in 1825.

Mrs. Grundy: one marked by prudish conventionality in personal conduct based on a character alluded to in Thomas Morton's Speed the Plough (1798).

pamphlet: an unbound printed publication with no cover or with a paper cover from "Pamphilus seu De Amore" ("Pamphilus or On Love"), a popular Latin love poem of the 12th century.

Pollyanna: one characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything based upon the heroine of the novel Pollyanna (1913) by Eleanor Porter.

Rabelaisian: marked by gross robust humor, extravagance of caricature, or bold naturalism. The word refers to François Rabelais (1494?-1553), a French humorist and satirist noted for his broad and racy humor and grotesque invention in works like Pantagruel (1533) and Gargantua (1535)

Gargantuan: of immense size or stature and voracious physical or intellectual appetites derived from the hero of Gargantua by François Rabelais (c.1495-1553).

sadism: a sexual perversion in which gratification is obtained by infliction of physical or mental pain on others (as upon a love object). The word is an eponym derived from the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814), whose novels Justine (1791) and Juliette (1798) were noted for their obscenity and sexual violence.

simon-pure: of untainted purity or integrity; pretentiously or hypocritically pure. Derived from "the real Simon-pure", a character impersonated by another in the play A Bold Stoke for a Wife (1718) by Susanna Centlivre.

Lilliputian: an undersized individual, an inhabitant of an island in Swift's Gulliver's Travels who is six inches tall.

yahoo: an uncouth or rowdy person, a member of a race of brutes in Swift's Gulliver's Travel who have the form and all the vices of man

braggadocio: 1. a braggart or boaster 2. empty bragging or boasting
from Braggococchio, the personification of vainglory in Edmund Spenser's The Fairie Queene.

Barmecidal: offering only the appearance of abundance. From the Barmedice, a family of princes in Thousand and One Nights' Entertainments. A member of this family invites a beggar to a grand feast, at which all the food is imaginary. The beggar plays along with the cruel hoax, pretends to get drunk upon the imaginary wine, and then knocks his host down.

CLAS224 Word Elements. Monmouth College Monmouth, Illinois
Instructor: Thomas J. Sienkewicz (

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