"Akimbo" is a human body position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward, or bent/bowed in a more general sense Fact|date=September 2007 (e.g. "the sailor sat with his legs akimbo").


The word's origins are murky. The term originated from the English around 1400 in "The Tale of Beryn": "The hoost ... set his hond in kenebowe." In the 17th century, the word was spelled "on kenbow", "a kenbow", "a kenbol", "a kenbold", or "on kimbow". The forms "akembo" and "akimbo" are found in the 18th century, with "akimbo" gradually becoming the standard.

One suggestion is that it comes from the Icelandic word "keng-boginn", "crooked", but there is no evidence that "keng-boginn" ever meant anything other than "crooked", or that "akimbo" ever meant simply "crooked". Also, if this theory of the origin of "akimbo" is correct, there should be an earlier English form such as *"keng-bow", but no such word exists.

Other suggestions trace akimbo to another Middle English word, "cambok", "a curved stick or staff" (from Medieval Latin "cambuca") or to "a cam bow", "in a crooked bow". However, there is no extant form of "akimbo" spelled with "cam"; and the earliest form of the word, "kenebowe", is a long way from "cam". The "bo" part of the word is presumably related to "bow", but no connection has ever been documented.

The "Middle English Dictionary", with some noted uncertainty, proposes that "akimbo" might be related to Old French "chane" or "kane" "pot" or "jug" respectively, combined with Middle English "boue", "bow". In that case, the word "akimbo" originally meant "bent like the handle of a jug"; however, there is no evidence for this, either.

Until recent times (the 1980s or thereabouts), the term was almost exclusively "arms akimbo", with little involvement of the legs; it seems that it was first creatively used to describe sitting cross-legged. More recently, the term has been adapted still further, giving a second sense of limbs being splayed out rather than merely bent.

In the late 1990s and 2000s, the word was adopted into computer gaming, where the meaning was modified until it referred to the dual wielding of two weapons. For example, in a first person shooter game, the player might choose a "pistols akimbo" option to wield one gun in each hand.

During the 1990s the phrase gained comic notoriety in the UK when comics The League of Gentlemen used it for the name of a children's educational theatre company, Legs Akimbo.

ee also

*Dual wield


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Akimbo — A*kim bo, a. [Etymology unknown. Cf. {Kimbo}.] With a crook or bend; with the hand on the hip and elbow turned outward. With one arm akimbo. Irving. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • akimbo — [ə kim′bō] adv., adj. [ME in kenebowe, lit., in keen bow, i.e., in a sharp curve; a folk etym. from ON kengboginn, bow bent < keng, bent + bogi, a bow] with hands on hips and elbows bent outward [with arms akimbo] …   English World dictionary

  • akimbo — c.1400, in kenebowe, of unknown origin, perhaps from Middle English phrase in keen bow at a sharp angle, or from a Scandinavian word akin to Icelandic kengboginn bow bent, but this seems not to have been used in this exact sense. Many languages… …   Etymology dictionary

  • akimbo — ► ADVERB ▪ with hands on the hips and elbows turned outwards. ORIGIN probably from Old Norse …   English terms dictionary

  • Akimbo — Alison Carroll 2008 als Lara Croft Akimbo (ursprünglich englisch für Arme in die Hüften gestemmt) bezeichnet in der Computerspiel Szene das gleichzeitige Benutzen gleicher Waffen mit beiden Händen. Dabei handelt es sich in der Regel um Pistolen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • akimbo — 1. adjective /əˈkɪm.bəʊ,əˈkɪm.boʊ/ With a crook or bend; with the hand on the hip and elbow turned outward. Now, then, mister, said he, with his head cocked and his arms akimbo, what are you driving at? Lets have it straight, now. 2. adverb… …   Wiktionary

  • akimbo — a|kim|bo [əˈkımbəu US bou] adj [Date: 1700 1800; Origin: in kenbow, on kenbow (15 17 centuries), probably from an unrecorded Old Norse i keng boginn bent in a curve ] 1.) (with) arms akimbo with your hands on your ↑hips so that your elbows point… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • akimbo — [15] Akimbo was borrowed from Old Norse. Its original English spelling (which occurs only once, in the Tale of Beryn 1400) was in kenebowe, which suggests a probable Old Norse precursor *i keng boginn (never actually discovered), meaning… …   The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins

  • akimbo — [[t]əkɪ̱mboʊ[/t]] PHRASE: usu PHR after v If you stand arms akimbo or with arms akimbo, you stand with your hands on your hips and your elbows pointing outwards. [OLD FASHIONED] …   English dictionary

  • akimbo — adjective (with) arms akimbo with your hands on your hips hip 1 (1) so that your elbows point outwards: He stood with arms akimbo, glaring at the intruders.: see picture at arm …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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