is a short person with relatively average bodily proportions in comparison with other human beings. The term is often improperly used to describe a person with the medical condition dwarfism
Dwarfism is short stature resulting from a medical condition. It is sometimes defined as an adult height of less than 4 feet 10 inches , although this definition is problematic because short stature in itself is not a disorder....
. The two terms are often used synonymously because both terms originate as words defining small people. However, "midget" is regarded as offensive to those with dwarfism by both the Restricted Growth Association
The Restricted Growth Association is a UK Charity that supports people with dwarfism .The RGA was formed in 1970 by Charles Pocock, Martin Nelson and other individuals in the UK wanting to provide a support network for people with restricted growth...
(UK based support network for people of profound short-stature) and the Little People of America
Little People of America is a non-profit organization which provides support, resources and information to individuals with dwarfism and their families...
(the American support network), along with many other nationally based groups, advocating the rights of individuals with disabilities and dwarfing conditions.
The term "midget" was coined in 1865 to describe an extremely short person with body proportions similar to those of a normal-sized person's. P. T. Barnum
Phineas Taylor Barnum was an American showman, businessman, scam artist and entertainer, remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the circus that became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus....
indirectly helped popularize the term midget
when he began featuring General Tom Thumb
General Tom Thumb was the stage name of Charles Sherwood Stratton , a dwarf who achieved great fame under circus pioneer P.T. Barnum.-Early life:...
in his circus. "Dwarf" originally denoted people with disproportionately short limbs. "Midget" however became linked to referencing short people put on display for public ridicule and sport, whereas the terms "dwarf" or "dwarfism" have a more medical base.
Like many other older terms, midget
has become part of popular language, although it is sometimes used in a derogatory sense. When applied to a person who is very short, midget
is an example of the euphemism treadmill. Actor Hervé Villechaize
Hervé Jean-Pierre Villechaize was a French actor who achieved worldwide recognition for his role as Mr. Roarke's assistant, Tattoo, in the television series Fantasy Island...
insisted on being called a "midget" as opposed to a "little person", which irritated some dwarf activists of the time.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary
(Merriam-Webster, 1961) defines midget
in the noun form as "a very diminutive person", and in the adjective form as "like a midget in size; very diminutive", hence its usage as a synonym for "miniature", as with cars.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary
The Online Etymology Dictionary is an online dictionary that describes the origins of English-language words. The abbreviation, OED, coincides with the frequently used acronym for the Oxford English Dictionary.-Description:...
, the term midget
comes from midge
A midge is a very small, two-winged flying insect. "Midge" may also refer to:-Real:* Midge Costanza , American politician* Mildred Gillars , aka "Midge", American broadcaster of Nazi propaganda during World War II...
, a sand fly, and the diminutive suffix -et