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Definition: The blues. A touch of depression.

Pronunciation: Mee-grim

Origin: Middle English – 14th century.

Why this word?

The word megrim entered Middle English from French. The French word migraigne referred to a pain on one side of the head and evolved into the word Migraine in modern English. This is somewhat of an unusual lexographic course. Usually, once a word is adopted into a language and the process of natural word evolution begins, the older, pre-evolved variants are shed and forgotten. With Megrim and Migraine, we have a case where both the original and the modern variants are now words in their own right – with different meanings. Admittedly, Megrim was more popular in the Victorian era than it is today. You are more likely to see it used by people who wear clothing that has furbelows and bustles than people who wear jeans.

Rather interestingly, a Megrim is also a fish – a rather ugly, translucent flatfish – officially named Lepidorhombus Whiffiagonis. It took Chrissy and I a while to figure out why this middle-evolutionary specimen with its face mushed to one side got its name. Then it dawned on us – mugraugne meant a pain in one side of the head. This little guy, with his face mushed onto one side of his head, looks like he’s suffering from a permanent migraine.

How and when to use this word in a sentence:

This word deserves to be resurrected from obscurity. In the Victorian era, the phrase that was used to describe someone who was suffering from a touch of the blues was far more vivid and appropriate than anything we use today. For in the Victorian times, if someone as feeling a little down, you might just have described them as having a fit of the megrims.

Of course – you could always just say that your favourite fish is Megrim – but if you settle for this, then I think this website is not for you.


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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