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Barnaby (uncountable)

  1. (archaic) originally, a lively and fast-paced dance; by extension, any quick and uneven movement.
    • 1640–1687, Charles Cotton, in his burlesque of Virgil:
      Bounce cry the port-holes, out they fly
      And make the world dance Barnaby.
    • 1985, Gregory Sass, Redcoat, page 28:
      It was a regular Barnaby dance; I'd never seen anyone move so quickly. Before the culprit bolted out the door into the night,
    • 1996, Jo Ann Ferguson, Miss Charity's Case, page 182:
      "Owell gave me this. Said to get it to you in a Barnaby dance. 'Ere it is." His tongue scraped across his lower lip as he stared at Charity.
    • 2009, Julia Golding, The Diamond of Drury Lane, page 434:
      We were now doing a strange sort of Barnaby dance: shuffling to and fro as I blocked his attempts to set off in pursuit.

Proper noun[edit]


  1. A male given name, from the medieval vernacular form of Barnabas.
    • 1595 Edmund Spenser, Epithalamium
      This day the sun is in his chiefest height
      With Barnaby the Bright.
    • 1848 John O'Donovan, The Annals of the Four Masters, The Dublin University Magazine, 1848, Vol.31, page 577
      The name Barnaby may strike the reader as out of place in so Celtic a pedigree; but this was an anglicisation of the true name, Brian Oge - - - Now, times are altered, and his anglicised descendants will probably begin to use Brian as a family name again, rejecting Barnaby as less respectable.
    • 1962 Edward Eager, Seven-Day Magic, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999, →ISBN, page 8
      Barnaby liked his own name. He was proud of its differentness and would never answer to "Barney", or any other nickname.
    • 2000 Alexei Sayle, Barcelona Plates
      But instead of pressing the button that would have taped the play she pressed the button that activated the built-in microphone and recorded a hundred and twenty minutes of hers and Barnaby's home life, which aurally consisted of 'Want a cup of tea?' 'No thanks.'


  • [Francis] Grose [et al.] (1811), “Barnaby”, in Lexicon Balatronicum. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence. [], London: Printed for C. Chappell, [], OCLC 23927885.