Definition: a fool or simpleton
The word “Ninny”, from the 1590’s could be a misdivision of “an innocent” or a mispronunciation of the Italian word “ninno” meaning “baby or child”.
Hammer means simply “tool with a stone head”.
The real beauty in this word is how it seems like the two root words are completely unrelated, until you think more deeply on their meanings and applications.
Translating this word literally you would be describing a person who is “Like a child with a stone head.” Someone whose brain is thick and dull like a stone and who is childish in their actions; a fool or simpleton.
Personally though, I think that “tool with a stone head” is a much more interesting and apt description for the sort of person I imagine a Ninnyhammer to be.
Why this word?
Oh words. What you do to me. I delight in this word for the simple fact that it exists. Ninnyhammer. The two words seem like they have no business being together. Like someone opened a dictionary to two different pages and starting smashing words together higgledy-piggledy. It could have been “Coppernoodle” or “Vodkarobot”, but instead it’s Ninnyhammer and I am thankful for the wonderful word and a handy new insult.
So the next time you find yourself in a war of words with someone, look them straight in the eye and say, “You (sir or madam) are a Ninnyhammer.” Then cloak yourself in what dignity you have left and leave before the shock wears off. In my experience the enemy will be forced to disguise their utter humiliation in gales of loud and raucous laughter. I guess they have to laugh to keep from crying.
How to use ninnyhammer in a sentence?
“When I used the salad fork during the veal cutlet course I felt like a perfect ninnyhammer.”