In most English-speaking countries, Nimrod is used to denote a hunter or warrior, because the biblical Nimrod is described as "a mighty hunter". In American English, however, the term has assumed a derogatory meaning, probably because of Bugs Bunny's references to Elmer Fudd as a "poor little Nimrod". While this was most likely using the term's "hunter" sense, it contributed to the development of a sense "one who was easily confounded".
An alternative explanation of this sense is that it derives from the John Steinbeck memoir Travels with Charley: In Search of America, in which Steinbeck used the term sarcastically while describing an inquest that was held after a hunter accidentally shot his partner: "The coroner questioning this nimrod..."
The Oxford English Dictionary, in turn, 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: in Hecht and Fowler's Great Magoo, someone remarks "He's in love with her. That makes about the tenth. The same old Nimrod. Won't let her alone for a second." However, this could still have been used in the sense of a hunter (i.e. someone pursuing a love interest).
Another possible source of the sense is the play "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.
nimrod (plural nimrods)
- (chiefly US, informal, pejorative) A silly or foolish person; An idiot.
- Don't stick your fingers in the fan, you nimrod!
- ^ (2000), “Nimrod”, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Company
- ^ 1962, John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America, 1997, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-005320-4:, page 45
- ^ (2007), “Nimrod, n.”, Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press