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Flibbertigibbet: Wikis


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Flibbertigibbet is a Middle English word referring to a flighty or whimsical person, usually a young female. In modern use, it is used as a slang term, especially in Yorkshire, for a gossipy or overly talkative person. Its origin is in a meaningless representation of chattering. [1]

This word also has a historical use as a name for a fiend, devil or sprite. In Shakespeare's King Lear (IV, i (1605)), he is one of the five fiends Edgar (in the posture of a beggar, Tom o' Bedlam) claimed was possessing him. Shakespeare got the name from Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603),[citation needed] where one reads of 40 fiends, which Jesuits cast out and among which was Fliberdigibbet, described as one of "foure deuils of the round, or Morrice, whom Sara in her fits, tuned together, in measure and sweet cadence."

By extension it has also been used as a synonym for Puck. Through its use as a nickname for a character in Sir Walter Scott's Kenilworth, it has gained the meaning of an impish child.[2]

Flibbertigibbet similarly features as a name in a local legend around Wayland's Smithy. According to the tale, Flibbertigibbet was apprentice to Wayland the Smith, and greatly exasperated his master.[3] Eventually Wayland threw Flibbertigibbet down the hill and into a valley, where he transformed into a stone. Scott associates his Flibbertigibbet character in Kenilworth with Wayland Smith.[citation needed]

In a speech at the 2009 Labour Party conference in Brighton, UK, the Trade Secretary, Lord Mandelson, used this term to refer the leader of The Conservative Party, David Cameron.

Flibbertigibbet in popular culture

In Rodgers and Hammerstein's production of The Sound of Music, the song Maria includes Flibbertigibbet as a descriptive word for Maria.

In the 1990 movie, Joe Versus the Volcano, Meg Ryan's character Angelica Graynamore says "I am completely untrustworthy ... I'm a flibbertigibbet."

In Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse 5 the narrater says of Billy Pilgrim's daughter, 'All this responsibility at such an early age made her a bitchy flibbertigibbet'.

"I'm such a flibbertigibbet!" Constance in the film Trading Places

"Flibberti-ibberti-gibbit," said the Goose in "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White.

"Loopty Loop and Flibbertigibbet" said by Hank Hill in an episode of King of the Hill[citation needed].

The name given by one of the "personalities" of Janis Plumtree in Tim Powers' Earthquake Weather.


  1. ^ World Wide Words
  2. ^ New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary
  3. ^ Wayland the Smith

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