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Etymology 1[edit]

From Old English beorma (yeast)


barmy (comparative barmier, superlative barmiest)

  1. (rare) containing barm, i.e. froth from fermented yeast
    • John Dryden
      Their jovial Nights, in frollicks and in play
      They pass, to drive the tedious Hours away:
      And their cold Stomachs with crown'd Goblets cheer,
      Of windy Cider, and of barmy Beer.
    • 1997, Margriet S. Westerterp-Plantenga, Food in Europe: Food] production, processing and consumption
      Here the yeast is added to convert the sugars to alcohol, also producing carbon dioxide. After about 24 hours the fermentation has created a thick head of barmy foam []

Etymology 2[edit]

Probably an alteration of balmy. The meaning foolish is cited as dating only from 1892 so this usage may be derived from Barming in Kent, the location of the county's psychiatric hospital (colloquially loonybin) from 1833.


barmy (comparative barmier, superlative barmiest)

  1. (chiefly Britain) odd, strange.
    • 2013, Russell Brand, Russell Brand and the GQ awards: 'It's amazing how absurd it seems' (in The Guardian, 13 September 2013)[1]
      I thanked John, said the "oracle award" sounds like a made-up prize you'd give a fat kid on sports day – I should know, I used to get them – then that it's barmy that Hugo Boss can trade under the same name they flogged uniforms to the Nazis under and the ludicrous necessity for an event such as this one to banish such a lurid piece of information from our collective consciousness.
Derived terms[edit]

Usage notes[edit]

  • in US English, balmy is usual for sense (2); elsewhere this is occasionally found but some authorities consider it erroneous, despite its probable etymology.