|Pin-up by Alberto Vargas (1896-1982)|
Adjective. Middle English.
[from stem of Old English (ge)būgan bend, BOW verb + -SOME.]
1 obsolete. Compliant (to); meek;
gracious, obliging, kindly;
easily moved, prone (to do). ME-M19
2 obsolete. Physically pliable, flexible, unresisting. L16-L17
3 Blithe, bright, lively, gay. archaic. L16
4 Chiefly of a woman: full of health, vigour, and good temper; plump and comely. L16
buxomness noun ME
There's been a change in the meaning of buxom - both Merriam-Webster and the OED now agree that it carries the specific connotation of a full-figured woman with large breasts which, to be fair, was always the connotation it had for me. However, when you look at its other meanings, it's rather sad that these are being lost, as an adjective for a "woman full of health, vigour and good temper" is rather lovely (if a little patronising, and I certainly wouldn't ever work "plump and comely" into a compliment). It also wasn't always just applied to women: in Paradise Lost, Milton wrote "Wing silently the buxom air," and the OED carried a quote from the Economist as "Her jolly, kindly personality and her buxom charm," although on today's understanding one can only assume that buxom charm is somehow synonymous with big-breasted charm.
But languages change, and words, like old friends, move on and settle in new places. Buxom, which still retains its shades of health and vigour, but with the very definite addition of big boobs, is perhaps epitomised by such characters as Jessica Rabbit, Lara Croft and Chun Li, as well as the classic pin-ups from artists like Pearl Frush and Alberto Vargas. Come to think of it, a disproportionate number of female video games characters and superheroes could be described as buxom. I wonder why ...
Did you ever use or know buxom to have any other meaning?
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