What It Sounds Like (pik-nik) 

If you haven't encountered this word before, take a guess at what it means. What does its sound and shape suggest to you?  (Don't cheat by checking on the definition below!) My hunch? I'm hoping that a pyknic is an elaborate, over-the-top picnic, my favorite kind of meal—one that allows you to stuff your face, get close to nature, read a book, and take a nap, all in the same spot:


What It Actually Means

What's new? I'm wrong again! Although, you could stretch a point by saying too many picnics could make you pyknic. Which it turns out, means you are of the stocky persuasion, with a broad, squat body and a fattish chest and abdomen. 

The word can be used as an adjective, describing a body type; or as a noun, referring to someone who's physique is, well, pyknic. 

Where It Comes From

The etymology of this word goes back to the Greek adjective, puknos, meaning thick. It's a relative newcomer to the English language, though, having been coined in the 1920's by pyshiatrist Ernst Ketschmer, who divided humans into three body types, asthnica (slender), athletic (muscular)and our pudgy but loveable pyknic friends. This classification of body types is still used by anthropologists and ethnologists today. I'm not sure if they allow cross-overs, but I'd like to give a sympathetic shout out to the possibility of a lapsed asthnica transitioning into a slightly more weighty, relaxed stage: asthnipyk, maybe?

Now Go Out There And USE it!

© Louise Hawes 2022