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Preposterous My Dear…

September 24, 2013

Preposterous – definition: absurd, senseless, foolish, ridiculous

Today’s word seems to have lost it’s common usage – although it is a fun word to incorporate into every day conversation. The words origin is thought to be medieval when belief in monstrous and fabulous creatures was commonplace. The word itself has both ‘pre’ (front) and ‘post’ (rear) within it. In relation to the fantastic animals it describes their having parts in the wrong order, such as animals that had heads and tails reversed or even heads are both ends, for example – the Amphisbaena.


Preposterous was used to refer to things which were wrong or inverted from as early as 1533, one such example was in a translation of Erasmus’ Enchiridion Militis Christiani. It’s use in relation specifically to ‘wrong’ animals has been found from least 1661, when it appeared in Joseph Glanvill’s The Vanity of Dogmatizing:

“Thus our Eyes, like the preposterous Animal’s, are behind us.”

In modern day the one animal that comes to mind is the Push me, Pull Me of Doctor. Dolittle fame. Of course, there are natural occurrences when twins of animals do not disconnect within the womb, leading to cojoined twins.



Have you used preposterous in a novel or essay?

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