Printable Version
Pronunciation: kahks-kom Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: b>1. A variant spelling of cockscomb, the comb of a domestic rooster. 2. A conceited dandy, a fop, a prig. 3. (Archaic) The cap of a jester. 4. A foolish person. 5. The name of several species of flowers.

Notes: Here is a word that is rarely used because these days it is seldom needed. Back in the day when it was used more often, wags had a field day creating whimsical derivations from it: adjectives like coxcombly and coxcombic(al), nouns like coxcombery "the quality of coxcombs or coxcombs collectively", to mention only a few.

In Play: We can usually spot a coxcomb by his clothes: "Lance was a perfect coxcomb, usually overdressed in the latest fashion and adorned with excessive bling." However, clothes are not part of the definition of this word: "Hazel was much taken by the handsome young coxcombs of the lifeguard platoon at the local pool."

Word History: Today's Good Word is reduction of cock's comb, which was respelled coxcomb later on. Cock was what we once called a rooster, before vulgar sense crushed that reference. In Old English it was spelled cocc, borrowed from Old French coc (today coq), apparently onomatopoeic from the representation of their sound in various languages, e.g. English cock-a-doodle-doo. In Sanskrit the word for "rooster" was kukuta, in Albanian, kikosh, Greek kikkos, so the onomatopoeia must have a PIE origin. Comb has cousins in most Germanic languages: Swedish, Danish and Dutch kam, and German Kamm. These trace back to PIE gembh-/gombh- "tooth, nail", source also of Sanskrit jambhah "tooth", Greek gomphos "bolt", and Russian and Serbian zub "tooth".

Dr. Goodword,

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