Posted by: victanguera | March 22, 2012

Word Wednesday #4

Okay, I know it isn’t Wednesday, so I offer you a word a little late. Reading Vanity Fair, I came across the following sentence:

Mr. Osborne sitting bodkin opposite, between Captain Dobbin and Amelia.

Of course that made little sense to me, as to me a bodkin was a thingamy. Used in sewing. A needle? Or something. So of course I had to look it up, just to see. Oh look, I’m right. So how exactly was he sitting bodkin? Needle-like? All pointed? Like a dagger? Hum.

From Mirriam-Webster:

bod·kin noun \ˈbäd-kən\

Definition of BODKIN

  b : a sharp slender instrument for making holes in cloth
  c : an ornamental hairpin shaped like a stiletto
2: a blunt needle with a large eye for drawing tape or ribbon through a loop or hem

bod·kin [bod-kin] noun

1. a small, pointed instrument for making holes in cloth, leather, etc.
2. a long pinshaped instrument used by women to fasten up the hair.
3. a blunt, needlelike instrument for drawing tape, cord, etc., through a loop, hem, or the like.
4. Obsolete . a small dagger; stiletto.
1350–1400; Middle English badeken, bo ( i ) dekyn,  of uncertain origin


  1. I knew “bodkin” meant a small blade (that’s in Shakespeare somewhere — a “bare bodkin”), but I’m still not visualizing Mr. Osborne very clearly.

    • I know. If he’d even said “bodkin-like”, it would give a better visual. But sitting bodkin? I did wonder if the word had a different definition at one time, but it doesn’t look that way. We’re left to wonder if Thackeray had a different word in mind and this slipped past his editors.

  2. Poke-poke,

    …it’s Wednesday again… where’s the new word?

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