Printable Version
Pronunciation: kree-pee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: 1. Creeping or otherwise moving very slowly. 2. Causing a sense of fearfulness or unease.

Notes: This rather ordinary word is odd all the same. It is the adjective for the verb creep but has wandered semantically a bit off course, as the second sense indicates. We may emphasize the initial meaning now by extending today's word with crawly, creepy-crawly. A creepy-peepy was the original name for the portable TV camera used for close-ups in large gatherings. The abstract noun is creepiness with an I. A person who makes you feel creepy is just a creep. The past tense and participle is crept.

In Play: Almost anything a bit scary can be creepy: "Maudlin Dresser's house is creepy with all its old, old, out of fashion furniture." Even activities: "Some people find partying with folks as old as their parents a bit creepy."

Word History: Creepy ultimately goes back to the verb creep, an original English verb that was creopan "to move low along the ground" in Old English. The same Proto-Germanic word produced kruipen "to crawl" in Dutch, Swedish krypa "to crawl", Danish krybe "to creep, crawl", and German kreichen "to creep, crawl". The Old English meaning led to the sense of insects crawling over your skin, a sense which went into the making of the second meaning. Calvin Watkins suggested it might be a variant of PIE ger-/gor- "to rub". But we find no words in Indo-European languages outside Germanic with a suffix -b.

Dr. Goodword,

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