Word of the Day Archive
Saturday April 1, 2000
coxcomb \KOKS-kohm\ , noun:
1. obsolete. A cap worn by court jesters; adorned with a strip of red. (Now cockscomb).
2. archaic. The top of the head, or the head itself.
3. Obsolete. A fool.
4. A vain, showy fellow; a conceited, silly man, fond of display; a superficial pretender to knowledge or accomplishments; a dandy; a fop.
A resemblance between the sacrificial garments of ancient ritual and the costume of a household jester in the Middle Ages--coxcomb, eared hood, bells, and bauble, with a motley coat--has been noted.
-- "Fool", Encyclopedia Britannica
If thou follow him, thou must needs wear my coxcomb.
-- William Shakespeare, King Lear
Fond to be seen, she kept a bevy
Of powdered coxcombs at her levee.
-- Oliver Goldsmith
Coxcomb is a corrupted spelling of cock's comb, the comb of a rooster, hence the badge resembling it that was worn in the cap of a professional fool or jester, hence the wearer of the cap, hence a fool or a vain and silly man.