Word of the Day Archive
Friday August 25, 2000
termagant \TUR-muh-guhnt\ , noun:
1. A scolding, nagging, bad-tempered woman; a shrew.
1. Overbearing; shrewish; scolding.
The termagant who had dragged him out on long, boring walks, who had tried in vain to censor his reading, who had labelled him an impious liar and criminal, was dead at last, and the boy, hearing a servant say 'she has passed away', sank to his knees on the kitchen floor to thank God for so great a deliverance.
-- Jonathan Keates, Stendhal
Family legend recounts that Sister Garrison once quite literally brokeup her husband's drinking party by smashing the offending bottles, and this is sometimes taken to mean that Abijah Garrison was driven to desert his family by his termagant of a wife.
-- Henry Mayer, All on Fire
The music critic Maclintick, with his termagant wife and his book which will never be finished, who in a moment of drunken despair throws his cherished text down the lavatory and then gasses himself.
-- David McKie, "Secret harmonies", The Guardian, March 30, 2000
Termagant comes from Middle English Termagaunt, alteration of Tervagant, from Old French. Termagant was an imaginary Muslim deity represented in medieval morality plays as extremely violent and turbulent. By the sixteenth century, termagant was used for a boisterous, brawling, turbulent person of either sex, but eventually it came to refer only to women.