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Pickwick +‎ -ian, from The Pickwick Papers (1836) by Charles Dickens, in which members of the Pickwick Club explain away unparliamentary language as having been uttered "in the Pickwickian sense".


Pickwickian (comparative more Pickwickian, superlative most Pickwickian)

  1. arbitrary or meaningless (of the usage of a word or phrase)
    • 1836, Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
      The Chairman felt it his imperative duty to demand of the honourable gentleman, whether he had used the expression which had just escaped him in a common sense. Mr. Blotton had no hesitation in saying that he had not—he had used the word in its Pickwickian sense.
    • 1977, Christopher Derrick, Escape from Scepticism: Liberal Education As If Truth Mattered
      But let us defend the poor battered old language against those who use words in private Pickwickian senses of their own []
    • 1995, John Hassard, Sociology and Organization Theory, page 80:
      But we are prisoners in a Pickwickian sense; if we try we can break out of our frameworks at any time.
  2. (medicine) Having, or relating to, Pickwickian syndrome.
    • 1975, Morton F. Reiser, Organic disorders and psychosomatic medicine, volume 4, page 866:
      This pattern of EEG and respiratory changes has been observed during both diurnal and nocturnal sleep in Pickwickian patients.
  3. Of or relating to The Pickwick Papers, its storyline, or its characters (chiefly Mr Pickwick himself).
    • 1960, George Frederick McCleary, On detective fiction and other things, page 60:
      Calverley's test of Pickwickian scholarship has been followed by similar tests with which students of the Holmesian chronicles may put their knowledge of their hero's exploits to the proof.

See also[edit]