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A panjandrum (British WWII-era weapon)
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Alternative forms[edit]


Coined as a nonce word in the 18th century by Samuel Foote.


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /pænˈd͡ʒæn.dɹəm/
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panjandrum (plural panjandrums or panjandra)

  1. An important, powerful or influential person.
    • 1755, Samuel Foote, The Grand Panjandrum (a nonsense poem written to test actor Charles Macklin's claim that he could accurately recite any paragraph of text after a single reading),
      So he died, / and she very imprudently married the Barber: / and there were present / the Picninnies, / and the Joblillies, / and the Garyulies, / and the great Panjandrum himself, / with the little round button at top;
    • 1910, Eliakim Littell, Making of America Project, Robert S. Littell, Living age ... (Littell's Living Age), Volume 265, page 809,
      I think it's an excellent thing that the Great Panjandrum is coming for the week-end. Have you ever met him in private?"
      I ought to explain that the Great Panjandrum was the nickname for Lord Elkindale, the then Foreign Secretary.
    • 1917, George Bernard Shaw, Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress:
      But my family has served the Panjandrums of Beotia faithfully for seven centuries. The Panjandrums have kept our place for us at their courts, honored us, promoted us, shed their glory on us, made us what we are.
    • 1976, Kurt Vonnegut, chapter 49, in Slapstick, Delacorte Press, page 228:
      The territory I had sold him was largely occupied by the Duke of Oklahoma, and, no doubt, by other potentates and panjandrums unknown to me.
  2. A self-important or pretentious person.
    • 1910, George Bernard Shaw, Misalliance:
      You can never imagine how delighted I was to find that instead of being the correct sort of big panjandrum you were supposed to be, you were really an old rip like papa.
  3. (military) A massive, rocket-propelled, explosive-laden cart designed by the British military during World War II.
    • 1967, John Winton, The War At Sea, 1939-1945: An Anthology of Personal Experience, page 304:
      The Panjandrum lurched and overturned, the crash dislodging several of the rockets, which flew low over the beach in all directions [] .
    • 2003, Neil A. Downie, chapter 14, in Ink Sandwiches, Electric Worms, and 37 Other Experiments for Saturday Science, →ISBN, page 115:
      The idea was that the Panjandrum, a kind of explosion-driven Ferris wheel, would be set rotating and then released into shallow water to roll up onto enemy beaches.


Further reading[edit]