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From em- +‎ biggen or big +‎ em- -en, possibly analogous to belittle. The morphology parallels that of enlarge (en- + large) or embolden (em- + bold + -en).[1]

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).[2]

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)

  1. (nonstandard, now humorous, transitive) To enlarge; to make bigger.
    Synonyms: swell, aggrandize, bigger, enlarge, magnify
    Antonyms: ensmallen, debigulate, shrink, diminish, belittle
    • 1884, C.A. Ward, “New Verbs”, in Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc[2], 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[3], picture caption:
      Train stations: how busy is yours? Victoria Station in 1927. Click image to embiggen.
    • 2019, 1:24 from the start, in Super Mario Maker 2 Direct 5.15.2019 (Nintendo Direct)‎[4], Nintendo:
      You can hide enemies, stack them up high, embiggen them with a Super Mushroom, hide coins in pipes, and so much more!
  2. (nonstandard, humorous, intransitive) To enlarge or grow; to become bigger.
    Synonyms: swell, grow
    Antonyms: shrink, contract, diminish
    • 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[5], 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.



See also



  1. ^ Linn, Virginia (2008 October 22) “TV shows have had defining moments on English language”, in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, pages C–5
  2. ^ Ward, C. A. (1884) Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers, Etc[1], Oxford University Press, page 135