Printable Version
Pronunciation: big-fUt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Verb

Meaning: 1. (Bigfoot) An imaginary animal that walks like a human, but is bigger than a human, known only by its large footprints and rare reports of sightings in the northwest US; sasquatch. 2. (Noun, slang) A prominent and influential person, a big wheel. 3. (Verb, slang) To quash, to trump (figuratively), to use one's influence to its limits.

Notes: Today's up-and-coming Good Word has been rising in the vocabulary of journalists since 2011. These new meanings for an old word were probably influenced by the phrase big footprint, originally referring to a big space occupied by something, or a large amount of resources required to sustain a person or organization. The plural for the noun is bigfoots, and the past tense of the verb is bigfooted.

In Play: Today's word refers to an activity that is not quite bullying, but pushing your influence as far as it goes: "Harold was a bigfoot lobbyist accustomed to having his way in the halls of Congress." It has been used verbally, too: "Gladys Friday had a wonderful idea about bonuses, but it was bigfooted by the boss."

Word History: Today's word was given to a mythical creature because of its large footprints. Now the word has been commonized to refer to "big wheels", people with considerable authority or influence. We are not sure where big originated. It most likely was borrowed from a regional Norwegian word bugge "powerful man" or the adjective bugga "rich, wealthy, powerful". Foot is a different matter. We have evidence of it throughout the Indo-European languages. The PIE original was pod-/ped- "foot". We find it in English as foot and fetlock. In Latin it was pes, ped- "foot", which turns up in words English borrowed, like pedal and pedestrian. In Greek the word for "foot" was pous, pod-, which we see in the words English borrowed directly from Greek, such as tripod and podiatry. In the Slavic languages it became a preposition, like Russian, Polish and Czech pod "under". (Thanks to Jeremy Busch, a Grand Panjandrum if not a bigfoot in the Alpha Agora, for discovering today's Good Word and reporting it in the Agora.)

Dr. Goodword,

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