Mainly a seventeenth-century expression, applied most famously to Caliban, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The word originally referred to a person misshapen at birth, a monstrosity, the influence of the moon being blamed for such accidents of nature. By the nineteenth century novelists such as Sir Walter Scott and R.L.Stevenson were using the word, vocatively or otherwise, in a watered-down sense to refer to a foolish person. Dickens and Disraeli seem to have interpreted the word as ‘one who moons about, an absent-minded person’. The term would probably only be used in modern times by speakers with a strong literary background. See also Calf, which was used in the seventeenth century as a vaguely affectionate insult.

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.


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  • moon-calf — (n.) also mooncalf, abortive, shapeless, fleshy mass, 1560s, attributed to the influence of the moon; from MOON (Cf. moon) (n.) + CALF (Cf. calf) (n.). In later 16c., deformed creature, monster …   Etymology dictionary

  • moon|calf — «MOON KAF, KAHF», noun, plural calves. 1. a congenital idiot. 2. a foolish person; fool; dolt. 3. a person who moons. 4. Archaic. a monstrosity …   Useful english dictionary

  • moon-calf — n. 1. Monster, deformed creature. 2. Blockhead, simpleton, fool, dunce, dolt …   New dictionary of synonyms

  • moon-calf — …   Useful english dictionary

  • calf —    ‘How now, you wanton calf, Art thou my calf?’ says Leontes to his son Mamillius, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Applied to a person, ‘calf’ seems to have had a wide range of meanings in the seventeenth century. It could imply meekness,… …   A dictionary of epithets and terms of address

  • Moon Island (Massachusetts) — Moon Island is situated in Quincy Bay, in the middle of Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. All of the land on the island is owned by the City of Boston but the island is under the jurisdiction of Quincy, Massachusetts.[citation needed] It is also part …   Wikipedia

  • NEW MOON — (Heb. רֹאשׁ חֹדֶשׁ, Rosh Ḥodesh; head of the month ), the first day or beginning of the month. The Torah placed its celebration on a par with the observance of the festivals, declaring Also in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • mooncalf — moon•calf [[t]ˈmunˌkæf, ˌkɑf[/t]] n. pl. calves a foolish person …   From formal English to slang

  • Drinking the Kool-Aid (Veronica Mars) — For the expression associated with uncritical belief, see Drinking the Kool Aid. Drinking the Kool Aid Veronica Mars episode Episode no. Season 1 Episode 9 Directed by …   Wikipedia

  • Floyd Dell — (* 28. Juni 1887 in Barry, Pike County, Illinois; † 23. Juli 1969 in Bethesda, Maryland) war ein US amerikanischer Schriftsteller und Journalist. Sein sozialkritischer Realismus machte auch vor der Benachteiligung der Frauen und sexuellen Tabus… …   Deutsch Wikipedia