from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adverb In or into a position in which the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bowed outward.
  • adjective Placed in such a way as to have the hands on the hips and the elbows bowed outward.
  • adjective Being in a bent, bowed, or arched position.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Literally, in a sharp bend; at an acute angle; adjectively, bent; crooked: said of the arms when the hands are on the hips and the elbows are bent outward at an acute angle.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective With a crook or bend; with the hand on the hip and elbow turned outward.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective With a crook or bend; with the hand on the hip and elbow turned outward.
  • adverb Into, in, or of the position where the arms are akimbo.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adverb with hands on hips and elbows extending outward
  • adjective (used of arms and legs) bent outward with the joint away from the body


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English in kenebowe (perhaps originally “in jug-handles, bent like the handles of a jug” ) : in, in; see in + kenebowe (kene- perhaps from or akin to Old French chane, kane, quenne, jug, of Germanic origin; akin to Middle English canne, jar, pot; see can + bowe, bow, bend; see bow).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English in kenebowe, in kene bowe ("in a keen bow", i.e. "in a sharp bend or angle"), from in ("in") + keen, kene ("brave, keen, sharp") + bowe ("bow, bend"). Alternately, possibly from Old Norse keng ("bent") + bogi ("a bow"), compare Icelandic kengboginn ("bow-bent").


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  • The word akimbo is at least 600 years old and one source points to a literal meaning of "a keen bow" meaning

    OUPblog 2009

  • It was in one of these that our word akimbo unexpectedly appeared more than 200 years earlier than the next citation in the 1600s.

    OUPblog 2009

  • Perhaps this post on Walter Guthrie as an Archaeopteryx in akimbo. moon said ...

    Negative Manhattan 2006

  • Even right now they're not spectacular, but since YRHT already jumped the shark, I have to use words like "akimbo" to get chuckles.

    Archive 2004-07-01 2004

  • The sight of her, as she stood "akimbo," her hands resting upon her enormous haunches, only strengthened the sinister impression, which was still further confirmed by my observing that it had caused a similar effect elsewhere -- upon

    The Wild Huntress Love in the Wilderness Mayne Reid 1850

  • With her long blonde hair, micro-dresses that may incite the prurient to hope for an occasional fleeting glimpse of her underwear and photographs on her book jackets of her in leather dresses, arms akimbo, like a stern but voluptuous school mistress, she is not, as Mr. Moore wrote, “faux glam.”

    Gamey indeed The Nag 2009

  • And exhausted; I slept on the way to Mark's house last night, and slept for much of the day, rousing myself to Twitter a senryu: sprawled, limbs akimbo his bed emits sleepions recovery is.

    I live! Really. 2009

  • The DYDA DISPATCHES: Coalitions akimbo skip to main | skip to sidebar

    Coalitions akimbo 2009

  • The general sits astride his favorite horse, Cincinnati; he is slouched, right arm akimbo, hat pulled low, gazing off in the distance with the cool dispassion for which he was famous.

    A Great Bronze Tarnished by Neglect Michael F. Bishop 2011

  • Poor Steven Adler, nodding out on heroin but still standing, knees half-bent and arms akimbo, appeared momentarily to be practicing some kind of narcotic tai chi.

    Retching With the Stars 2009


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  • We all remember Legs Akimbo, the famous exotic dancer.

    October 10, 2007

  • I must have been out sick that day.

    October 10, 2007

  • See kimbaw.

    April 13, 2009

  • What's the difference? (kimbaw and akimbo?)

    July 17, 2009

  • my dad had a phrase for strippers who were 'ta-tas akimbo'.

    February 27, 2010

  • "He frowns at me for a moment, arms akimbo." Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

    October 17, 2010

  • Surprisingly English etymology.

    April 19, 2011

  • Used in Chapter 23 of Ron Chernow biography WASHINGTON in a description of how GW appears in painting by Peale commemorating Battle of Princeton.

    July 5, 2015