Martin Gardner, The Annotated Alice:
a combination of “slimy” and “lithe”; smooth and active
(compounded of slimy and lithe). ‘Smooth and active’.
Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed.:
Obs.–1 ? var. of SLEATHY a. 1622 W. WHATELY God’s Husb. II. 116 We make no great matter of the lower degrees of sinne, and so grow slithy, and fashionable, and dead in our confessions. (SLEATHY= rare. Slovenly, careless. 1649 W. BLITHE Eng. Improv. Impr. 52 The combination of labourers and poor people may very much prejudice, besides their slothfull and sleathy slubbering of it. a1904 in Eng. Dial. Dict. s.v. Sleath (Kentish dial.), He is a bit sleethy.)
slithy, a. 2
A word invented by ‘Lewis Carroll’: ‘smooth and active’ (‘Carroll’, 1855, 140) and popularized esp. in phr. slithy toves from Through the Looking-Glass (1871). Also in subsequent allusive uses. 1855 ‘L. CARROLL’ Rectory Umbrella & Mischmasch (1932) 139 Twas bryllyg and the slythy [1871: slithy] toves Did gyre and gymble in the wabe. 1920 ‘K. MANSFIELD’ Let. 27 Sept. (1928) II. 48, I watched him [sc. a lizard] come forth to-day– very slithy– and eat an ant. 1928 A. S. EDDINGTON Nature of Physical World xiii. 291 Eight slithy toves gyre and gimble in the oxygen wabe; seven in nitrogen. 1937 G. FRANKAU More of Us 2 While the free-versifier gyres and gimbles The slithy tove–with his own ‘private symbols’. 1960 H. MARCHAND Categories x. 368 Lewis Carroll’s slithy.., chortle..have become common property. Shakespeare’s glaze (f. glare and gaze) has not. 1981 Time Out 20-26 Mar. 54/1 Pity the slithy toves of academe.« Back to Glossary Index