Origin of the word "flabbergast"


Canada - English
Hi. A friend of mine is wondering what the origin of the word "flabbergast" is and it's accepted spellings. (She spelled it "flabberghast"). She said she searched the internet but couldn't find an origin.

Anybody have any ideas?

Thank you in advance.
  • kitenok

    Senior Member
    Hi Travis,
    Well, here's what the Oxford English Dictionary knows about flabberg(h)asted:

    First mentioned in 1772 as a new piece of fashionable slang; possibly of dialectal origin; Moor 1823 records it as a Suffolk word, and Jamieson, Suppl. 1825, has flabrigast to gasconade, flabrigastit worn out with exertion, as used in Perthshire. The formation is unknown; it is plausibly conjectured that the word is an arbitrary invention suggested by flabby of flap and aghast.
    Eric Partridge's etymological dictionary also sees it as a combination formed from flabby and aghast, the idea, I suppose, being that one is made limp (flabby) by being in such shock (aghast).

    The OED and Webster do not offer flabberghast as an alternative spelling, but flabberghasted generates about 17,000 hits on Google, compared to over a million for flabbergasted. I'll leave it to you and your friend to decide whether any of this makes her spelling "accepted" ;)