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A.Word.A.Day--Rip Van Winkle

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

This week's theme: eponyms.

Rip Van Winkle (rip van WING-kuhl) noun

One who fails to keep up with the times.

[After Rip Van Winkle, a character in a story by Washington Irving (1783-1859). Rip falls asleep for 20 years in the Catskill mountains and wakes up to discover the world around him has changed. He finds that the American Revolutionary war has taken place and instead of being a subject of His Majesty George the Third, he is now a free citizen of the United States.]

Rip Van Winkle has plenty of company when it comes to sleeping. His 20 years are nothing compared with Sleeping Beauty who dozed off for 100 years. The Seven Sleepers of Ephesus fell asleep in a cave for some 250 years, and Endymion in Greek mythology received the gift of eternal youth by sleeping forever.

"Does Gordon Brown sincerely want to be Prime Minister? To ask such a question you would have to be a Rip Van Winkle, slumbering obliviously through every event in British politics throughout the past decade."
Anatole Kaletsky; Unless Gordon Brown Wakes Soon, He'll Sleepwalk Past the Door to Power; The Times (London, UK); Dec 7, 2006.

See more usage examples of Rip Van Winkle in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.


I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone. -Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

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