Definitions

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

  • noun A fool.
  • noun A freak.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A monster; a deformed creature.
  • noun A dolt; a stupid fellow.
  • noun A mole or mass of fleshy matter generated in the uterus; a false conception.

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

  • noun A monster; a false conception; a mass of fleshy matter, generated in the uterus.
  • noun A dolt; a stupid fellow.

Etymologies

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

[Earlier, unformed embryo (from the supposed influence of the moon).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From moon +‎ calf, after a superstition that the moon caused abnormal fetal developement.

Examples

  • That's what's happened in less far-reaching schemes in the past and that was the objective of these plans,Peter Taylor-GoobyProfessor of social policy, University of Kent• Tim Dowling's article was a great introduction to gallery rage G2, 10 May, but I must add to the list of outrages: standing four inches from the painting; pontificating at 100 decibels; wandering around like a mooncalf and randomly blocking the vision of all and sundry.

    Letters: Artistic vision

  • Of those mooncalf, ill-fitting, ineffably strange examples he lists, his first and most outstanding is The Island of Doctor Moreau.

    The stars of modern SF pick the best science fiction

  • My son, the brutal mooncalf, is still alive, though barely, starving and buried inside some mountain.

    Deeper

  • My son, the brutal mooncalf, is still alive, though barely, starving and buried inside some mountain.

    Deeper

  • They may think we are new animals, a new sort of mooncalf perhaps!

    First Men in the Moon

  • Outside began a terrific bellowing, as if a mooncalf were in trouble.

    First Men in the Moon

  • I infer rather than learn from his narrative that he was captured by the mooncalf herds under the direction of these other Selenites who

    First Men in the Moon

  • I had realised that we might work from mooncalf to mooncalf up the cave until we were near enough to charge home.

    First Men in the Moon

  • From a partially divided carcass of a mooncalf that we presently saw, I am inclined to believe it must have been mooncalf flesh.

    First Men in the Moon

  • The strange and (except for the want of mandibles and palps) most insect-like head of the mooncalf-minders underwent, indeed, the most incredible transformations: here it was broad and low, here high and narrow; here its leathery brow was drawn out into horns and strange features; here it was whiskered and divided, and there with a grotesquely human profile.

    First Men in the Moon

Comments

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  • NOUN: One deficient in judgment and good sense: ass, fool, idiot, imbecile, jackass, moron, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, simple, simpleton, softhead, tomfool. Informal: dope, gander, goose. Slang: cretin, ding-dong, dip, goof, jerk, nerd, schmo, schmuck, turkey. See ABILITY.

    July 2, 2007

  • "In the midst of such industry, gawky Simon was the fabled grasshopper in the nest of ants. He knew he would never amount to much: many people had told him so, and nearly all of them were older—and presumably wiser—than he. At an age when other boys were clamoring for the responsibilities of manhood, Simon was still a muddier and a meanderer. No matter what task he was given to do, his attention soon wandered, and he would be dreaming of battles, and giants, and sea voyages on tall, shining ships... and somehow, things would get broken, or lost, or done wrong.

    Other times he could not be found at all. He skulked around the castle like a scrawny shadow, could shinny up a wall as well as the roof-masons and glaziers, and knew so many passageways and hiding holes that the castle folk called him "ghost boy." Rachel boxed his ears frequently, and called him a mooncalf.

    Rachel had finally let go of his arm, and Simon dragged his feet glumly as he followed the Mistress of Chambermaids like a stick caught in a skirt hem. He had been discovered, his beetle had escaped, and the afternoon was ruined." - Tad Williams, The Dragonbone Chair

    July 3, 2007

  • Ah Arby, you beat me to it! I love that book.

    July 3, 2007

  • Ha! Me too. I especially remember this word (which I love) because I think I learned it in this book.

    (and I didn't just spent half an hour finding the eBook via Google so I could quote this passage.)

    July 3, 2007

  • This word was chosen as Wordnik word of the day.

    November 11, 2009

  • (noun) - An old name for a false conception or a fœtus imperfectly formed . . . supposed to be occasioned by the influence of the moon. Trinculo supposes Caliban to be a mooncalf in The Tempest (Act II, Scene 2), saying, "I hid me under a dead mooncalf's gaberdine." Sometimes used as a term of reproach to signify a living monster, lumpish, stupid, and heavy.

    --Robert Nares' Glossary of the Works of English Authors, 1859

    January 21, 2018