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From late Middle English [Term?] first attested 1549 probably imitative of nonsense uttered by gossips. Usage as an imp or fiend and name of the Devil from around 1603.

Alternatively (but far less likely), an alteration of flibbergib (toady, sycophant), derived potentially from an Old Norse *fleipra-geipa(re) (babbler of nonsense). The hypothetical Old Norse term would have been a compound of fleipra (a variant of fleipa (to babble, tattle)), and geipa (to talk nonsense, to boast) or geipare (one who speaks nonsense, braggart). fleipa is notably the ancestor to the flip- part of the English word flippant. It is of note that the original meaning of flibbergib was “chatterer”.



flibbertigibbet (plural flibbertigibbets)

  1. An offbeat, skittish person; especially said of a young woman.
  2. A flighty person; someone regarded as silly, irresponsible, or scatterbrained, especially someone who chatters or gossips.
    • 2009, Jennifer Worth, Farewell to the East End, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, page 171:
      ‘Ignorant girls. Dizzy young things. It seems to be my fate always to be landed with these flibbertigibbets.’
  3. (archaic) An imp, a fiend.


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