Gorbellied Joyce: A Lexical Trip

“Saint Thomas, Stephen smiling said, whose gorbellied works I enjoy reading in the original, writing of incest from a standpoint different from that of the new Viennese school Mr Magee spoke of, likens it in his wise and curious way to an avarice of the emotions.”

- Ulysses (Bodley Head 1965), p.264

[Note: Ulysses [1922] (London: Bodley Head 1965), p.264. ‘Gorbellied’ meaning large girthed with protruberant (cf. pot-bellied) is a recurrent epithet in Henry Urquehart’s translation of Rabelais’s Garantua and Pantegruel (1653). There is a note on the word at Michael Quinion’s Worldwidewords website - online. See also Wordnik - online. Urquehart’s translation of Rabelais’ classic is available at Gutenberg Project - as text.


“Hang ye, gorbellied knaves, are ye undone?” (Henry IV, Pt. I.)

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“He then asked the skipper what the idle lobcocks used to sacrifice to their gorbellied god on interlarded fish-days.” (Five books of the lives, heroic deeds and sayings of Gargantua and his son Pantagruel, trans. Urquehart.)

“For, on the word of a gentleman, I had rather bear in war one hundred blows on my helmet in the service of my country than be once cited by these knavish catchpoles merely to humour this same gorbellied prior.” (Idem.)

“In this order they moved towards Master Gaster, after a plump, young, lusty, gorbellied fellow, who on a long staff fairly gilt carried a wooden statue, grossly carved, and as scurvily daubed over with paint; such a one as Plautus, Juvenal, and Pomp.” (Idem.)

“He was a diminutive, stooping, palsied, plump, gorbellied old fellow, with a swingeing pair of stiff-standing lugs of his own, a sharp Roman nose, large rough eyebrows, mounted on a well-hung ass.” (Idem; Book 3.)

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Francis Burton and Cameron
“Prince Henry, the Navigator, despatched from Lagos, in 1417, an expedition to explore Cape Bojador, the ‘gorbellied.’ [...]” (To The Gold Coast for Gold: A Personal Narrative in Two Volumes, London: Chatto & Windus 1888, Vol. I.)

“The gorbellied children are the pests of the settlement.” (Ibid., Vol. II; available at Gutenberg Project - online; also at Google Books )

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Harry Turtledove
“‘Consumption catch thee, thou gorbellied knave!’ a boatman yelled.” (Ruled Britannia - a modern novel set in period of Armada. Note opening sentence: “Two Spanish soldiers swaggered up Tower Street toward William Shakespeare”. (All given at Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words website.)

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