Word Wednesday.



1: Capitalized: a deity erroneously ascribed to Islam by medieval European Christians and represented in early English drama as a violent character.

2: an overbearing or nagging woman: shrew.

[Origin: Middle English Termagaunt, Tervagaunt, Old French Tervagan the imaginary deity: c.1500, “violent, overbearing person” (especially of women), from Teruagant, Teruagaunt (c.1200), name of fictitious Muslim deity appearing in medieval morality plays, from Old French Tervagant, a proper name in “Chanson de Roland” (c.1100), of uncertain origin.

Termagant, adjective: overbearing, shrewish. (C 1598)

“The Englishman hardly knew whether to put him down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a guilty conscience, or as an unbearably henpecked husband. The probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but, still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor even than a termagant wife.” – Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book, M.R. James.


  1. says

    Oh, there are so many derogatory words about women. Harridan, shrew, nag, scold, harpy, Xanthippe, etc. I quite like virago though, because although that later came to a negative meaning, like termagant, the archaic definition was a woman of strength and spirit.

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