I told my wife to avoid the megrims, and she asked about the origin of the word “megrim.” So I looked it up and discovered it’s simply a Middle English variant of “migraine.” You learn something every day.


  1. I only knew about the literal meaning.

  2. That’s funny—the literal meaning is the one I didn’t know!

  3. How does one get from migraine to, if memory serves, to a fancy?
    I just looked it up on hyperdictionary, the migraine meaning comes first, also had the following: \Me”grim\, n. [Etymol. uncertain.] (Zo[“o]l.)
    The British smooth sole, or scaldfish ({Psetta arnoglossa}).

  4. Well, the OED says the literal (‘migraine’) meaning is “Now rare (U.S. regional and poet.)”; the ‘fancy’ meaning is also said to be “now rare.” They don’t explain how the meaning developed, but the first couple of citations don’t make the shade of meaning clear; it’s only when we get to the 1711 Quixote that it seems to definitely mean ‘fancies’: 1593 R. HARVEY Philadelphus 23 Iago.. died of a frensie, as he liued with a megrim. 1631 R. BRATHWAIT Whimzies xix. 147 Hee is troubled with a perpetuall migrim; at Sea hee wisheth to bee on Land, and on Land at sea. 1711 E. WARD tr. Cervantes Don Quixote I. 235 With Fifty Meagrims in his Head. The transition from ‘migraine’ to ‘melancholy’ is natural enough, and I suppose if you’re picturing megrims as some sort of spirit floating around in your head, it can move from one effect to the other without much trouble (cf. the Brathwait quote, where it could be feeling perpetually out of sorts or simple fancy that sends him from sea to land and back).

  5. J. Pollack says

    What does, “Philadelphus” mean?

  6. It means ‘loving (one’s) brother.’

Speak Your Mind