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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English curious, from Old French curius, from Latin cūriōsus. The English word is cognate with Italian curioso, Occitan curios, Portuguese curioso, and Spanish curioso.



curious (comparative more curious or curiouser, superlative most curious or curiousest)

  1. Tending to ask questions, or to want to explore or investigate; inquisitive; (with a negative connotation) nosy, prying.
    Synonyms: enquiring, inquiring; (obsolete) exquisitive; investigative; (rare) peery
    Antonyms: incurious, noncurious, uncurious
    Young children are naturally curious about the world and everything in it.
    • 1615, [Henri de Feynes, Comte de Monfart], [Jean Loiseau de Tourval], transl., An Exact and Cvriovs Survey of All the East Indies, euen to Canton, the Chiefe Cittie of China: All Duly Performed by Land, by Monsieur de Monfart, the Like whereof was Neuer hetherto, Brought to an End. [] Newly Translated out of the Trauailers Manuscript, London: Printed by Thomas Dawson, for VVilliam Arondell, [], →OCLC, pages 7–8:
      I was ſo curious likewiſe as to goe to the place, where it is ſaid the great tower of Babel was built, being about halfe a days iourney diſtant; where I ſawe nothing but a high mountaine of earth in the midſt of a plaine where in digging you may finde certaine bricks, whereof it is ſaide the tower is built.
    • 1818, [Mary Shelley], chapter VII, in Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. [], volume III, London: [] [Macdonald and Son] for Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, →OCLC, page 189:
      I shall quit your vessel on the ice raft which brought me thither and shall seek the most northern extremity of the globe; I shall collect my funeral pile, and consume to ashes this miserable frame, that its remains may afford no light to any curious and unhallowed wretch, who would create such another as I have been.
    • 1915 January, W. Jay, “The Answering Owl. A Tale of an East Coast Spy.”, in The Boy’s Own Paper, volume XXXVIII, part I, London: “Boy’s Own Paper” Office, [], →OCLC, chapter II, page 17, column 1:
      Jack Bradshaw, the leader of the Owl Patrol of the Redscar Scouts, strode to the dry stone wall bounding the cliff path, and drew from between the stones a ball of crumpled paper. He was curious as to why it had been placed there—where it could not have lodged accidentally—and he smoothed it out. He found it to be pencilled over with figures, like a scrap that had been used to reckon on.
    • 1958, Margret Rey, Curious George Flies a Kite, Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, →OCLC; republished New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005, →ISBN, page 3:
      George is a little monkey, / and all monkeys are curious. / But no monkey / is as curious as George. / That is why his name is / Curious George.
    • 2015, Brian Grazer; Charles Fishman, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, →ISBN, page 58:
      I know that not everyone feels like they are naturally curious—or bold enough to ask about someone's shoes. But here's the secret: that doesn't matter. You can use curiosity even if you don't think of yourself as instinctively curious.
  2. Caused by curiosity.
  3. Leading one to ask questions about; somewhat odd, out of the ordinary, or unusual.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:strange
    Antonym: uncurious
    The platypus is a curious creature, with fur like a mammal and a beak like a bird.
    • 1485Thomas Malory. Le Morte Darthur, Book X, Chapter xxxi, leaf 232v
      Thenne at the mete cam in Elyas the harper & by cause he was a curyous harper men herd hym synge the same lay that Dynadan had made
      "Then at the meat came in Eliot the harper, and because he was a curious harper men heard him sing the same lay that Dinadan had made"
    • 1693, [John Ray], “Some Plants Observ’d by Sir George Wheeler in His Voyage to Greece and Asia Minor”, in A Collection of Curious Travels and Voyages. [], tome II, [London: Printed for S[amuel] Smith and B[enjamin] Walford, printers to the Royal Society, []], →OCLC, page 30:
      Abundance of Samphire, and a curious bulboſe Plant, creſted with little Flowers ſtriped with white and Cinnamon colour.
    • 1719 May 6 (Gregorian calendar), [Daniel Defoe], The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, [], 3rd edition, London: [] W[illiam] Taylor [], published 1719, →OCLC, page 34:
      I found him by his Blood ſtaining the water; and by the help of a Rope which I slung round him and gave the Negroes to hawl, they drag'd him on Shore, and found that it was a moſt curious Leopard, ſpotted and fine to an admirable Degree, and the Negroes held up their Hands with Admiration to think what it was I had kill'd him with.
    • 1851, [William Henry Gregory], chapter II, in A Transport Voyage to the Mauritius and back; [], London: John Murray, [], →OCLC, page 90, column 1:
      "But the curiousest thing a'most as I ever see at sea," resumed the mate, with an air of abstraction, and filling himself another glass of grog—"a'most the curiousest thing I ever see was when I was a coming home from Quebec in the old Jane— [...]"
    • 1855 Christmas, Charles Dickens, “The Boots”, in Charles Dickens, editor, The Holly-tree Inn. Being the Extra Christmas Number of Household Words, volume XII, New York, N.Y.: Dix & Edwards, publishers, [], published 1856, →OCLC, page 18, column 2:
      What was the curiousest thing he had seen? Well! He didn't know. He couldn't momently name what was the curiousest thing he had seen—unless it was a Unicorn—and he see him once at a Fair.
    • 1865 November (indicated as 1866), Lewis Carroll [pseudonym; Charles Lutwidge Dodgson], “The Pool of Tears”, in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, London: Macmillan and Co., →OCLC, page 15:
      "Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice (she was so much surprised that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). "Now I'm opening out like the largest telescope that ever was! Good-bye, feet!"
    • 1910, Emerson Hough, “A Lady in Company”, in The Purchase Price: Or The Cause of Compromise, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC, page 16:
      Captain Edward Carlisle, soldier as he was, martinet as he was, felt a curious sensation of helplessness seize upon him as he met her steady gaze, her alluring smile; he could not tell what this prisoner might do.
    • 1921 March 5, D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, “Clouds”, in Peter Anderson Graham, editor, Country Life, volume XLIX, number 1261, London: George Newnes [], →OCLC, page 277, column 1:
      There are many curious varieties of cirrus, some common and some rare. They have strange movements, at times shooting out long streamers in a direction quite different from that of the drift of the cloud itself across the sky.
  4. (LGBT) Clipping of bi-curious.
  5. (obsolete) Careful, fastidious, particular; (specifically) demanding a high standard of excellence, difficult to satisfy.
    • c. 1580 (date written), Philip Sidney, “The Fifth Booke”, in Mary Sidney, editor, The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia [] [The New Arcadia], London: [] [John Windet] for William Ponsonbie, published 1593, →OCLC; republished in Albert Feuillerat, editor, The Last Part of The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia [] (Cambridge English Classics: The Complete Works of Sir Philip Sidney; II), Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: University Press, 1922, →OCLC, page 193:
      Honourable even in the curiousest pointes of honour, whereout there can no disgrace nor disperagement come unto her.
    • c. 1610–1611 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Winters Tale”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene iv], page 295, column 2:
      I am ſo fraught with curious buſineſſe, that / I leaue out ceremony.
    • 1624, Richard Pots; William Tankard; G. P.; William Simons, compiler, “Chap. VIII. Captaine Smiths Iourney to Pamavnkee.”, in John Smith, The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles: [], London: [] I[ohn] D[awson] and I[ohn] H[aviland] for Michael Sparkes, →OCLC, book 3; reprinted in The Generall Historie of Virginia, [...] (Bibliotheca Americana), Cleveland, Oh.: The World Publishing Company, 1966, →OCLC, page 74:
      [We] never had better fires in England, then in the dry, ſmoaky houſes of Kecoughtan: but departing thence, when we found no houſes we were not curious in any weather to lye three or foure nights together vnder the trees by a fire, [...]
    • 1650, Jeremy Taylor, “Considerations of the General Instruments and Means Serving to a Holy Life, by Way of Introduction”, in The Rule and Exercises of Holy Living: [], London: Printed [by R. Norton] for Richard Royston [], →OCLC; 19th edition, London: Printed by J. Heptinstall, for John Meredith, in trust for Royston and Elizabeth Meredith; [], 1703, →OCLC, section I (The First General Instrument of Holy Living. Care of Our Time.), page 13:
      [...] For he that is curious of his time, will not eaſily be unready and unfurniſhed.
    • 1655, Thomas Fuller, The Church-history of Britain: From the Birth of Jesus Christ, untill the Year M. DC. XLVIII., London: Printed for Iohn Williams [], →OCLC, page 206; republished volume II, London: Printed [by James Nichols] for Thomas Tegg and Son, [], 1837, →OCLC, book V, section IV (To Master Henry Barnard, Late of London, Merchant), subsection 19 (The Death and Character of Queen Catherine Dowager), page 65:
      A pious woman [i.e., Catherine of Aragon] [...] little curious in her clothes, being wont to say, she accounted no time lost, but what was laid out in dressing of her; [...]
    • 1743, Robert Drury, The Pleasant, and Surprizing Adventures of Mr. Robert Drury, during His Fifteen Years Captivity on the Island of Madagascar: [], revised and corrected edition, London: Printed and sold by R. Meadow, []; T[homas] Astley, []; and B. Milles, [], →OCLC, pages 31–32:
      [T]he Water was very thick, and naſty; [...] however it ſerv'd our Purpoſe, for at that Time we were not very curious.
  6. (obsolete) Carefully or artfully constructed; made with great elegance or skill.
    • 1576, George Whetstone, “The Castle of Delight: []”, in The Rocke of Regard, [], London: [] [H. Middleton] for Robert Waley, →OCLC; republished in J[ohn] P[ayne] Collier, editor, The Rocke of Regard, [] (Illustrations of Early English Poetry; vol. 2, no. 2), London: Privately printed, [1867?], →OCLC, page 44:
      To honour which a worlde of people reſorted unto the Lord de Bolognas caſtle; for the intertainment of whiche gueſtes, there neither wanted coſtly cheare, curious ſhewes, or pleaſaunt deviſes, that eyther money, friendſhip or cunning might compaſſe.
    • c. 1591–1592 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Third Part of Henry the Sixt, []”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act II, scene v], page 156, column 2:
      His wonted ſleepe, vnder a freſh trees ſhade, / All which ſecure, and ſweetly he enjoyes, / Is farre beyond a Princes Delicates: / His Viands ſparkling in a Golden Cup, / His bodie couched in a curious bed, / When Care, Miſtrust, and Treaſon waits on him.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], →OCLC, Exodus 28:8:
      And the curious girdle of the Ephod, which is upon it, ſhall bee of the ſame, according to the worke thereof; euen of gold, of blew, and purple, and ſcarlet, and fine twined linnen.
    • 1665, R[obert] Hooke, “Observ[ation] I. Of the Point of a Sharp Small Needle.”, in Micrographia: Or Some Physiological Descriptions of Minute Bodies Made by Magnifying Glasses. With Observations and Inquiries thereupon, London: Printed by Jo[hn] Martyn, and Ja[mes] Allestry, printers to the Royal Society, [], →OCLC, pages 1–2:
      [I]f view'd with a very good Microſcope, we may find that the top of a Needle (though as to the ſenſe very ſharp) appears a broad, blunt, and very irregular end; not reſembling a Cone, as is imagin'd, but onely a piece of a tapering body, with a great part of the top remov'd, or deficient. The Points of Pins are yet more blunt, and the Points of the moſt curious Mathematital Inſtruments do very ſeldome arrive at ſo great a ſharpneſs; [...]
Usage notes[edit]

The comparative and superlative forms curiouser and curiousest are regarded as informal or nonstandard.

Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

curi(um) +‎ -ous


curious (not comparable)

  1. (chemistry, rare) Containing or pertaining to trivalent curium.


  1. ^ Hall, Joseph Sargent (March 2, 1942), “2. The Vowel Sounds of Unstressed and Partially Stressed Syllables”, in The Phonetics of Great Smoky Mountain Speech (American Speech: Reprints and Monographs; 4), New York: King's Crown Press, →DOI, →ISBN, § II.2, page 65.

Further reading[edit]