SNP’s word of the day: Callipygian

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Callipygian

Meaning: Having beautiful buttocks. No, really. It’s from the Greek kallipygos, from kalli- + pyg? Buttocks.

Usage: “Those dusky Afro-Scandinavian buttocks, which combine the callipygian rondure observed among the races of the Dark Continent with the taut and noble musculature of sturdy Olaf, our blond Northern cousin.” — Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

You should know it because: This is one of the loveliest-sounding words in the English lexicon, and it means, essentially, nice butt. When you say it in Greek, it’s not sexual harassment, though. Somehow I’d forgotten this very shapely word ‘til it was used in a New Yorker story in reference to (gross, but who else?) Kim Kardashian. Of course, it could also be used for Nicki Minaj, who’s all over my Twitter feed after playing both the Versace for H&M show and the Victoria’s Secret show in New York this week, or for any number of hyper-cheeky pop tarts.

It’s said the term originated with the Venus Kallipygos, who lifted the golds of her Grecian gown to reveal a certain bootylicious. It came into Great British usage around 1800, when the Brits got obsessed with classic mythology, and it was definitely known in North America by 1929, when TIME Magazine ran a piece on the “Callipygian Captain,” about a woman pretending to be a man in the U.S. Army.

Um, but let’s not leave out the boys: David Bowie was famous as “the nazz with the God-given ass” (to quote his own “Ziggy Stardust” lyric), and James Franco is happily continuing the tradition of ambiguously gendered, callipygian it-boydom with his new Flaunt mag cover. Wanna see more? Check out, but don’t do it at the office. I’m serious.

More Celebrity