• akimbo •
ê-kim-bo • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: (Standing) with the hands resting on the hips, elbows bent and sticking out (as in the photograph).
Notes: This adjective is unusual in two respects: it follows its noun, rather than preceding it, and it is used mostly in one expression "with arms akimbo": She stood with arms akimbo, daring him to approach her. There are no nouns, adverbs, or verbs associated with this word; it is the purest of lexical orphans.
In Play: The arms akimbo posture usually connotes truculence or defiance: "Mama's standing at the door calling you with arms akimbo. You're in trouble." (You hear kids saying it all the time.) This connotation has led to a wider range of usages where truculence or defiance alone are intended: "Courtney's eyes went akimbo when she saw her husband talking with his old girlfriend."
Word History: It might seem that we are dealing with a foreign borrowing, Native American or Japanese. Not so. This Good Word is as English as they come. As early as the beginning of the 15th century people were standing in kenebowe. In this phrase we see bow but kene should mean "knee", if anything. The original spelling suggests that English might have borrowed it from a related language, Old Norse, where i keng boginn meant "bent in a curve". However it started, it eventually dissolved into a kenbow and, finally to today's odd little offering from alphaDictionary.
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