Printable Version
Pronunciation: shrimp Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A particularly delicious small salt-water crustacean covered with a sectioned carapace that turns red when cooked. 2. (Slang) A small, hence insignificant person.

Notes: Tiny but tastyLinguistically speaking, today's word is best known for its role in the famous oxymoron 'jumbo shrimp'. This is because the noun is used as an epithet meaning "very small." There are two adjectives, shrimpy "abounding in shrimp" and shrimpish "small." By the way, that is an [sh] in front; avoid the temptation that traps many of us into pronouncing this word [srimp]. The plural of shrimp is shrimp.

In Play: Today's crustacean is often enjoyed on ice as a cocktail with horseradish in tomato sauce: "I like to begin a seafood meal with a jumbo shrimp cocktail." As a metaphor, it is an insulting means of referring to the physique of someone, best avoided in civil conversation, "So how did a shrimp like Larry Little become a body-building guru in the physical education department?"

Word History: Today's word may be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European root (s)ker- "bend", which took on several suffixes that later became parts of new roots meaning shrivel, shrink. The initial [s] was fickle, so comes and goes. This means the same root may be in crimp, crumple, and the crumpled leaves of Greek krambee "cabbage", as well as German schrumpfen "shrink". The sense of shrinkage suggests that it might be related to scrimp, the adjective, as Samuel Smiles wrote of Thomas Edward in 1876, "Edward, though poor and scrimp of means, has always enjoyed a happy home." The verb to scrimp is a derivative of the adjective.

Dr. Goodword,

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