In American English it has assumed a derogatory meaning.
This usage is thought likely to have originated with the classic cartoon character Bugs Bunny, who referred to Elmer Fudd as a "poor little Nimrod". While this was most likely meant to refer sarcastically to the biblical Nimrod, the word came to connote one who was easily confounded.
Another explanation for this usage derives from the John Steinbeck memoir Travels with Charley: In Search of America, in which Steinbeck used the term sarcastically while describing an inquest after a hunter accidentally shot his partner: "The coroner questioning this nimrod..."
The Oxford English Dictionary, however, cites a 1933 writing as the first usage of nimrod to refer to a fool, predating Bugs Bunny by at least five years and Steinbeck by nearly thirty. However, this could still have been used in the sense of a hunter (i.e. someone pursuing a love interest).
Another possible explanation is from the play entitled "The Lion of the West" by James Paulding. First performed in 1831, it features a comedic characterization of Davy Crockett named Col. Nimrod Wildfire who attempts to woo a young French woman. Subsequent reference may refer to this character.
nimrod (plural nimrods)
- (chiefly US, informal, pejorative) A silly or foolish person; An idiot.
- Don't stick your fingers in the fan, you nimrod!
- ^ "Nimrod", The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin Company: 2000.
- ^ 1962, John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, edition 1997, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-005320-4:, p. 45
- ^ "He's in love with her. That makes about the tenth. The same old Nimrod. Won't let her alone for a second." (B. Hecht and G. Fowler, Great Magoo, 1933) "Nimrod, n.", Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press: 2007.