A mooncalf (or moon-calf) is the abortive fetus of a cow or other farm animal. The term was occasionally applied to an abortive human fetus.

The term derives from the formerly widespread superstition, present in many European folk traditions, that such malformed creatures were the product of the sinister influence of the Moon on fetal development.

Modern usage

The term came to be used to also refer to any monstrous or grotesque thing. Shakespeare, for instance, used the term to describe Caliban, the deformed servant of Prospero, in The Tempest.

Mooncalf is used as a derogatory term to indicate someone is a dullard, fool or otherwise not particularly bright or sharp. For example, W. C. Fields in "The Bank Dick" (1940) advises his prospective son-in-law to avoid being a "mooncalf" by buying shares he has been beguiled into believing are worth much more than the proffered price.

Mooncalf is also the name of a species of magical creatures in the world of the Harry Potter series. It is described in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as a shy, nocturnal creature with a smooth, pale grey body, bulging eyes and four spindy legs with large flat feet. Mooncalfs perform dances in the moonlight, and are apparently responsible for crop circles.

See also


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mooncalf — Moon calf , n. 1. A monster; a false conception; a mass of fleshy matter, generated in the uterus. [1913 Webster] 2. A dolt; a stupid fellow. Dryden. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mooncalf — [mo͞on′kaf΄] n. [from the notion of being influenced by the moon: see LUNATIC] 1. an idiot or fool 2. a person, esp. a youth, who spends time mooning about 3. Obs. a monstrosity …   English World dictionary

  • mooncalf — noun A foolish person. But I can think of no one but a mooncalf or a gabyWho would trust their own child to raise a baby. See Also: moon, moonstruck, moonbat …   Wiktionary

  • mooncalf — noun Date: 1614 a foolish or absentminded person ; simpleton …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • mooncalf — /moohn kaf , kahf /, n., pl. mooncalves. 1. a congenitally grossly deformed and mentally defective person. 2. a foolish person. 3. a person who spends time idly daydreaming. [1555 65; MOON + CALF1] * * * …   Universalium

  • mooncalf — I (Roget s IV) n. Syn. idiot, simpleton, incompetent; see fool . II (Roget s Thesaurus II) noun One deficient in judgment and good sense: ass, fool, idiot, imbecile, jackass, moron, nincompoop, ninny, nitwit, simple, simpleton, softhead, tomfool …   English dictionary for students

  • mooncalf — moon·calf || muːnkæf / kɑːf n. simpleton, stupid person …   English contemporary dictionary

  • mooncalf — noun (plural mooncalves) archaic a foolish person …   English new terms dictionary

  • mooncalf — moon•calf [[t]ˈmunˌkæf, ˌkɑf[/t]] n. pl. calves a foolish person …   From formal English to slang

  • mooncalf — /ˈmunkaf/ (say moohnkahf) noun a congenital imbecile. {literally, a child influenced by the moon} …   Australian-English dictionary

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