English edit

Etymology edit

PIE word

A respelling of puisne,[1] from Anglo-Norman puisné (later, more recent; junior; weakly) [and other forms] and Middle French puisné (born after (a specified person); younger, youngest; one who is born after (a specified person)) (modern French puîné (cadet (born after a sibling); a cadet (someone born after a sibling))), from puis (after; since) + (born).[2] Puis is derived from Old French pois (after; since), from Vulgar Latin *postius (afterward), from Latin posteā (afterwards; hereafter; thereafter; next, then), from post (after; since) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *pós (afterwards)) + ea (these (things)); and from Latin nātus (born), ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *ǵenh₁- (to beget; to give birth; to produce).

Pronunciation edit

Adjective edit

puny (comparative punier, superlative puniest)

  1. Of inferior significance, size, or strength; ineffective, small, weak. [from 16th c.]
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:scrawny, Thesaurus:small
    You puny earthlings are no match for Ming the Merciless!
  2. (chiefly Southern US, south Midland US) (Frequently) ill; poorly, sickly. [from 18th c.]
  3. (obsolete) Alternative spelling of puisne
    1. Inferior in rank; specifically, of a judge: junior. [16th–19th c.]
      • 1676 December 11 (first performance), [William] Wycherley, The Plain-Dealer. A Comedy. [], London: [] T[homas] N[ewcomb] for James Magnes and Rich[ard] Bentley [], published 1677, →OCLC, Act III, page 42:
        Gadsbodkins, you puny Upſtart in the Law, to uſe me ſo, you Green Bag Carrier, you Murderer of unfortunate Cauſes, the Clerks Ink is ſcarce off of your fingers, you that newly come from Lamblacking the Judges ſhooes, and are not fit to wipe mine; []
      • 1712, Humphry Polesworth [pseudonym; John Arbuthnot], “How ’’John’’ Look’d Over His Attorney’s Bill”, in Law is a Bottomless-Pit. [], London: [] John Morphew, [], →OCLC, page 20:
        When John firſt brought out the Bills, the Surprize of all the Family was unexpreſſible, at the prodigious Dimenſions of them; [] Fees to Judges, puny Judges, Clerks, Prothonotories, Philizers, Chirographers, Underclerks, Proclamators, Counſel, Witneſſes, Jury-men, Marſhals, Tipſtaffs, Cryers, Porters; []
      • 1733, [Jonathan Swift], On Poetry: A Rapsody, Dublin, London: [] [R. Fleming] [a]nd sold by J. Huggonson, [], →OCLC, page 15, lines 237–240:
        But if you think this Trade to baſe, / (Which ſeldom is the Dunce's Caſe) / Put on the Critick's Brow, and ſit / At Wills the puny Judge of Wit.
      • 1871 (date written), Anthony Trollope, “Daniel Thwaite Receives His Money”, in Lady Anna. [], volume II, London: Chapman and Hall, [], published 1874, →OCLC, pages 111–112:
        Many thought that he had altogether cut his own throat, and that he would have to take the first "puny" judgeship vacant.
    2. Coming later in time; secondary, subsequent. [17th c.]
    3. Not experienced; novice. [17th–18th c.]

Usage notes edit

Not to be confused with punny (relating to a pun).

Derived terms edit

Translations edit

Noun edit

puny (plural punies)

  1. (archaic) An inferior person; a subordinate; also, an insignificant person. [from 16th c.]
    (inferior person): Synonyms: inferior, junior, (obsolete) puisne, underling, vassal · Antonym: superior
    (insignificant person): Synonyms: see Thesaurus:nonentity, Thesaurus:worthless person · Antonyms: see Thesaurus:important person
    • 1922 February, James Joyce, “[Episode 14: Oxen of the Sun]”, in Ulysses, Paris: Shakespeare and Company, [], →OCLC, part II [Odyssey], page 374:
      [T]hou chuff, thou puny, thou got in the peasestraw thou losel, thou chitterling, thou spawn of a rebel, thou dykedropt, []
  2. (obsolete)
    1. A younger person; a junior. [16th–17th c.]
      • 1603, Michel de Montaigne, “An Apologie of Raymond Sebond”, in John Florio, transl., The Essayes [], book II, London: [] Val[entine] Simmes for Edward Blount [], →OCLC, pages 333–334:
        [A] law that the eldeſt or firſt-borne child ſhall ſucceede and inherite all: where nothing is reſerved for punies, but obedience: [] Theſe vaine ſhadowes of our religion, which are ſeene in ſome of theſe examples, witnes the dignitie and divinity thereof.
      • 1642, Thomas Fuller, “The Good Generall”, in The Holy State, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire: [] Roger Daniel for John Williams, [], →OCLC, book IV, paragraph 5, page 328:
        For a worthy man is wounded more deeply by his own Generalls neglect, then by his enemies ſword: [] Who had rather others ſhould make a ladder of his dead corps to ſcale a city by it, then a bridge of him whileſt alive for his punies to give him the Goe-by, and paſſe over him to preferment.
    2. Alternative spelling of puisne
      1. A person who is not experienced; a beginner, a novice. [16th–18th c.]
        Synonyms: newb, rookie, tenderfoot; see also Thesaurus:beginner
      2. (law) A puisne or junior judge. [16th–17th c.]
    3. (university slang, law) A new student at a school, university, the Inns of Court, etc.; a junior. [16th–17th c.]
      Synonyms: fresher, freshman, new bug, (Tonbridge School) novi, (Westminster School) shadow
      • c. 1610, “[The Election of the Prince]”, in Frederick S[amuel] Boas, editor, The Christmas Prince (The Malone Society Reprints; 47b), London: Printed for the Malone Society by Frederick Hall M.A. at the Oxford University Press, published 1923 (indicated as 1922), →OCLC, page 3, lines 9–12 and 14–18:
        [T]he whole companye or most parte of the Studentꝭ [Studentis] of the same house mette toogether to beginne their Christmas, of wch som̃e came to see sports [] others to make sporte wthall of this last sorte were they whome they call Fresh-menn Punies of the first yeare, who are by no meanes admitted to be agent's or behoulders of those sports, before themselues haue biñe patient perfourmers of them.

Translations edit

References edit

  1. ^ puny, n. and adj.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; puny, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.
  2. ^ puisne, adj. and n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, December 2020; puisne, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.

Further reading edit

Catalan edit

Etymology 1 edit

Inherited from Old Catalan puny, from Latin pugnus, from Proto-Indo-European *puǵnos, *puḱnos, from *pewǵ- (prick, punch).

Pronunciation edit

Noun edit

puny m (plural punys)

  1. fist
Derived terms edit

References edit

Etymology 2 edit

Verb edit


  1. inflection of punyir:
    1. third-person singular present indicative
    2. second-person singular imperative