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Etymology 1[edit]

big (to dwell, to reside, to live in; to build, to construct) (obsolete, except for Ireland, Northern England, and Scotland) (from an early North Germanic language (compare Old Norse byggva, byggja (to dwell, to inhabit, to live; to settle; to build), Icelandic byggja (to inhabit; to settle; to build), Old Danish byggiæ, Danish bygge (to build, to construct; to craft), Old Swedish byggia, Swedish bygga (to build, to construct)), from Proto-Germanic *būwijaną (to settle; to build), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *bʰúHt (to come into being, to appear; to become; to grow), from the root *bʰuH-) +‎ -ly. Compare Old Norse byggiligr (habitable, liveable).


bigly (comparative more bigly, superlative most bigly)

  1. (obsolete, most recently Scotland) Habitable, liveable; hence delightful, pleasant, pleasing.
    • 1806, Robert Jamieson, “Donul and Evir”, in Robert Jamieson, editor, Popular Ballads and Songs, from Tradition, Manuscripts, and Scarce Editions; with Translations of Similar Pieces from the Ancient Danish Language, and a Few Originals by the Editor, volume I, Edinburgh: Printed for Archibald Constable and Co. Edinburgh; Cadell and Davies, and John Murray, London, OCLC 315489089, page 235:
      "And steek it weel, thy biglie bower, / And by the rood thee sain; / And tell thy bedes in haly guise, / Till this ae night is gane!"
    • 1828, Peter Buchan, “Burd Helen”, in Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland, hitherto Unpublished. With Explanatory Notes, by Peter Buchan, Corresponding Member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, volume II, Edinburgh: Printed for W[illiam] & D[avid] Laing, and J. Stevenson [et al.], OCLC 4149774, page 35:
      When I was in my bigly bower, / I wore but what I would; / This night I'm lighter 'mang Willie's horse feet, / I fear I'll die for cold.

Etymology 2[edit]

big (of great size, large (adjective); to a large extent, on a large scale; hard (adverb)) +‎ -ly.

Also as misanalysis (rebracketing) of big league, when used unusually as an adverb, rather than an adjective; popularised by Donald Trump saying big league in US 2016, which was widely misanalysed as a result of the adverbial use.[1]


bigly (comparative more bigly, superlative most bigly)

  1. (now rare, modern uses nonstandard) Strongly, with great force.
    • 1485 July 31, Thomas Malory, [Le Morte Darthur], [London]: Enprynted and fynysshed in thabbey Westmestre [by William Caxton], OCLC 71490786, leaf 193 verso; republished as H[einrich] Oskar Sommer, editor, Le morte darthur by Syr Thomas Malory; the Original Edition of William Caxton Now Reprinted and Edited with an Introduction and Glossary by H. Oskar Sommer, Ph.D.; with an Essay on Malory's Prose Style by Andrew Lang, London: Published by David Nutt, in the Strand, 1889–1891 (reproduced Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative, 1997), OCLC 890162034, page 386:
      Thenne sir Tristram came in and beganne so roughly and soo bygly that there was none myght withstande hym / and thus sire Tristram dured longe
    • 1651, James Balfour, “[The Annales of Scotland.] Some Shorte Memories and Passages of Staite, from the 13 day of Marche, 1651, to the first of Januarij, 1653”, in [James Haig], editor, The Historical Works of Sir James Balfour of Denmylne and Kinnaird, Knight and Baronet; Lord Lyon King at Arms to Charles the First, and Charles the Second. Published from the Original Manuscripts Preserved in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates, volume III, London: Printed for Hurst, Robinson & Co. and Arch[ibald] Constable & Co. Edinburgh, published 1825, OCLC 963327461, pages 311–312:
      Thesse men did much in order to publicke good, befor they spake biglie; bot done nothing since, saue that they haue drawin away considerable forces, raissed at wast charges for the publicke defence.
    • [1757, Jacob Serenius, “BIG”, in An English and Swedish Dictionary: Wherein the Generality of Words and Various Significations are Rendered into Swedish and Latin, [...], 2nd amended edition, Nyköping, Sweden: Printed at Harg and Stenbro near Nykoping in Sweden, by Pet. Momma, Director of His Majesty's Printing-House, OCLC 642428057:
      Bigly, Adv[erb] ſtort, ſkrytagtigt.]
    • 1790, [James Graham], “The Infallible Guide to Eternal Blessedness; or, the Awful Worth, and Very High Dignity of the Soul, Arising from Its Immortality; [...]”, in The Guardian of Health, Long-Life, and Happiness: or, Doctor Graham's General Directions as to Regimen, &c. [...] To which are Added, the Christian's Universal, being a Paraphrase on Our Lord's Prayer; and a Complete and Infallible Guide to Everlasting Blessedness in Heaven!, Newcastle upon Tyne: Printed by S. Hodgson; and sold by the author;—by Mr Richardson, Royal Exchange, London;—Mr J. Guthrie, Nicholson-street, Edinburgh; and by Mr Cruttwell, Bath, OCLC 83445238, page 7:
      It was well obſerved by the late pious Dr Doddridge, that "The eternal ſalvation of one ſoul is of far greater importance, and bigly pregnant with far greater events, than the temporal ſalvation, wealth, well-being, or happiness of a whole kingdom, though it were for the ſpace of ten thouſand, or of ten millions of ages; []"
    • 2000, Keith Badman, The Beatles Off the Record, London: Omnibus Press, →ISBN:
      Tell me about The Mamas & Papas[sic], Bob. I believe you’re backing them very bigly, and they’re great. I believe you're backing them.
    • 2016, Ray Cashman, quoting Patrick James (“Packy Jim”) McGrath, “Person and Place, Life and Times”, in Packy Jim: Folklore and Worldview on the Irish Border, Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, →ISBN, page 63:
      And he [Henry David Thoreau] was very strong to, for the, for the—against slavery. He was very bigly against that. Slavery was going on in America, enslaving the black people.
  2. (now rare) In a blustering or boastful manner; haughtily, pompously.
    • 1795, Juvenal; John Dryden, transl., “The Works of Juvenal. Translated by John Dryden, Esq. and Others. Satire X.”, in Robert Anderson, editor, The Works of the British Poets. With Prefaces, Biographical and Critical, by Robert Anderson, M.D., volume XII, London: Printed for John & Arthur Arch; and for Bell & Bradfute, and J. Mundell & Co., Edinburgh, OCLC 13602288, page 699, column 2:
      Would'ſt thou not rather chooſe a ſmall renown, / To be the mayor of ſome poor paltry town, / Bigly to look, and barbarouſly to ſpeak; / To pound falſe weights, and ſcanty meaſures break?
    • 1822, Charles Symmons, “Appendix”, in The Life of John Milton, 3rd edition, London: Printed for G. and W. B. Whittaker, Ave Maria Lane, OCLC 318402471, page 483:
      In any event, he adopted the whole of [William] Lauder's malignity; and let his partisans first clear him of this offense before they talk bigly of his innocence, and bluster in his cause.
    • 1859 June, G. Buffini Wufficks [probably a pseudonym], “The Polite Art of Novelling. A Didactic Fiction.”, in John R[euben] Thompson, editor, The Southern Literary Messenger; Devoted to Every Department of Literature and the Fine Arts, volume XXVIII (New Series, volume VII), Richmond, Va.: Macfarlane, Fergusson & Co., proprietors, OCLC 844372826, pages 445, column 2, and 446, column 1:
      Of the Three General Modes of Newspaper Amplification, the first is adapted to persons who talk bigly without difficulty. Its Effect is indeed admirable. There is no fact or conceit so trivial and foolish that it may not be metamorphosed into the Highest Wisdom, or, at least, into the Tone and Semblance of the Highest Wisdom, by the Polysyllabic Method of Spreading. But to those who find it difficult to talk bigly, the adaptation of this method will be attended with the labour of a frequent recurrence to the Dictionary, a thing to be sedulously avoided by all who desire to novel politely, that is to say, easily, alike to Reader and to Writer.
Alternative forms[edit]
  • biglie (obsolete)
  • bygly (obsolete, 13th–15th centuries)


  1. ^ Liam Stack (Oct 24, 2016), “Yes, Trump Really Is Saying ‘Big League,’ not ‘Bigly,’ Linguists Say”, in The New York Times[1]