• humdinger •
hêm-ding-gêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: (Slang) A superb example of whatever, an extraordinary and truly remarkable thing.
Notes: Humdinger is a lonely word. It has no family and except for the equally mysterious words that share its initial component, humbug and humdrum, it is alone in the world.
In Play: Anything that excels may be thought of as a humdinger: "Did you see the girl on the arm of Phil Anders last night. She's a real humdinger." Indeed, it fits almost anywhere excellence raises its pretty head: "I had a humdinger of a time at the party last night."
Word History: Today's word was first spotted in print in 1905. Since it appeared in a glossary of new words, it must have been in currency much before that. It was originally used for describing smashingly beautiful women. This word was based on dinger, in early 19th century slang, a word for anything superior. Dinger, in its turn, was based on the verb ding which, a long time ago, meant "hit, smash", a much stronger sense than it has today in the US. The Vikings probably brought the word over when they cruised along the English coastline; compare Swedish dänga "to beat, wallop" and Danish dænge "to bang, beat". The other part of today's word, hum, remains a mystery. (Let us pause now to thank Colin Burt for suggesting this humdinger of a Good Word.)
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