• flunky •
flêng-ki • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. A slavish, servile, or fawning person of unquestioning obedience, a lackey. 2. A person who does menial or trivial work. 3. A liveried servant, a footman.
Notes: This word has been played with as much as any other word in the English language. Flunkyish may not be noticed, but if you use flunkyize, flunkyiana, or flunkyhood, you had better be sure your co-conversationalist is in a jovial mood. By the way, this word may also be spelled flunkey, with an E.
In Play: Anywhere we see absolute servility, we may use this word: "Neil Downe is the boss's flunky—he even anticipates the boss's desires like Radar O'Reilly." At home or at work: "Hen-pecked? He is a perfect flunky to his wife."
Word History: The word flunky came into Standard English from Scots, where it meant "liveried manservant, footman." The definition states that a flunky is "literally an attendant at your flank". This supports the theory that flunky is a corruption of flanker "one who stands at a person's flank or side". The origin of flank is still a mystery. The best guess is it was borrowed from a Germanic language which contained some word like lanka, which would also be the origin of English lank. That leaves the question: how did the initial F get there? Before you ask, the verb flunk is unrelated: this came from the past participle of flink, today's flinch. (Tony Bowden is no man's flunky; he is a Senior Lexiterian in the Alpha Agora who suggested today's Good Word there.)
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