Printable Version
Pronunciation: -bij-hed Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A head of cabbage. 2. Muttonhead, chowderhead, meathead, lunkhead, pinhead, bonehead, dingbat, dimwit. 3. A type of jellyfish. 4. A smokestack on a steam locomotive with a large bulb atop it.

Notes: This word is a compound of two words sharing the same origin! (See Word History.) Like most compounds, it is a lexical orphan with no derivational family. Some dictionaries separate the two constituents with a space, cabbage head, or a hyphen, cabbage-head.

In Play: The original sense of this word referred to edible vegetation: "The soil of Corey Ander's farm was so rich, he could grow cabbageheads in it a foot in diameter." However, it later took its place among the "-head" words listed above in Meaning: "While Siddey Hall's speech was entirely tongue-in-cheek, the cabbageheads in the audience took it seriously."

Word History: Today's Good Word shows how much words can change in 5000 years because the two constituents of cabbagehead share the same origin: PIE kaput- "head". Cabbage was borrowed from Old North French caboche "head, cabbage", from Old French caboche "head", influenced by cabus "a variety of cabbage", both inherited from Latin caput "head". By the 15th century English had converted caboce to caboge, then to cabage "cabbage". PIE kaput- "head" was also the source, via the Proto-Germanic language, of Old English heafod "head", today head, Dutch hoofd "head", German Haupt "head", Norwegian hode "head", and Swedish huvud "head". So, cabbage was borrowed from a Romance language while head is an original Germanic word—both from the same source! (Today's extraordinary Good Word was spotted and suggested by Paula Ward; let's thank her for that.)

Dr. Goodword,

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