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From em- + biggen or em- + big + -en, possibly analogous to belittle. The morphology parallels that of enlarge (en- + large) or embolden (em- + bold + -en).
The verb's first recorded use is in an 1884 edition of the British journal Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc. by C. A. Ward (see quotation below).
The word’s current popularity follows its deployment as an intentionally ungainly form by television writer David X. Cohen for The Simpsons episode “Lisa the Iconoclast” in 1996.
embiggen (third-person singular simple present embiggens, present participle embiggening, simple past and past participle embiggened)
- (nonstandard, now humorous, transitive) To enlarge; to make bigger.
- 1884, C.A. Ward, “New Verbs”, in Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc, volume 10, page 135:
- Are there not, however, barbarous verbs in all languages? ἀλλ’ ἐμεγάλυνεν αυτοὺς ὁ λαός, but the people magnified them, to make great or embiggen, if we may invent an English parallel as ugly. After all, use is nearly everything.
- 1996, “Lisa the Iconoclast”, in The Simpsons, season 7, episode 3F13, spoken by Jebediah Springfield (Harry Shearer):
- A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man.
- 2012 4 Feb, Caitlin Moran, “Hair: a big issue”, in The Times:
- As I joyfully embiggen myself into the vague silhouette of Chewbacca, I have time to reflect on just what it is about big hair that I find so elementally appealing.
- 2013 May 19, “Every train station in Britain listed and mapped: find out how busy each one is”, in The Guardian, picture caption:
- Train stations: how busy is yours? Victoria Station in 1927. Click image to embiggen.
- 2019, Super Mario Maker 2 Direct 5.15.2019 (Nintendo Direct), Nintendo, 1:24 from the start:
- You can hide enemies, stack them up high, embiggen them with a Super Mushroom, hide coins in pipes, and so much more!
- Synonyms: swell, aggrandize, bigger, enlarge, magnify
- Antonyms: ensmallen, debigulate, shrink, diminish, belittle
- (nonstandard, humorous, intransitive) To enlarge or grow; to become bigger.
- 2007 January 23, Riccardo Argurio; Matteo Bertolini; Sebastián Franco; Shamit Kachru, “Gauge/gravity duality and meta-stable dynamical supersymmetry breaking”, in Journal of High Energy Physics, pages 24, 26:
- [Page 24] For large P, the three-form fluxes are dilute, and the gradient of the Myers potential encouraging an anti-D3 to embiggen is very mild.
[Page 26] While in both cases for P anti-D3-branes the probe approximation is clearly not good, in the set up of this paper we could argue that there is a competing effect which can overcome the desire of the anti-D3s to embiggen, namely their attraction towards the wrapped D5s.
enlarge — see enlarge
- ^ Linn, Virginia (2008-10-22), “TV shows have had defining moments on English language”, in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, page C–5
- ^ Ward, C. A. (1884) Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc, Oxford University Press, page 135
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