Barmy and balmy sound exactly alike, and with the exception of one word (r in barmy and l in balmy) their spellings are very much similar too. The meanings of both the words however is not similar at all and the words are not interchangeable with each other. This makes them a confusable pair of words known as homophones (i.e. words that spell and sound alike but have different meanings). Many writers and learners of English language mistake balmy for barmy or vice versa due to the close association between their spellings and this is very normal. If you do not know what this pair of words means or how to differentiate between them, keep reading. This article will discuss the meanings, usage, examples and difference of the two words.
Barmy originated in late 15th century (in the sense ‘frothy’), from barm + y that means the froth on fermenting malt liquor. Balmy’s origin is not known. The roots of both of these words goes back to the 1500s, when “balm” first was utilized to denote a soothing ointment and “barm” first described froth from fermented yeast. Their noun forms evolved into adjectives over time.
Barmy as adjective:
Barmy is used as an adjective in English language where is describes a noun. It usually refers to something or someone that is mad or crazy. I thought I was going barmy at first. Something that is extremely foolish or nonsensical, it is called barmy.
I love this barmy malt.
Balmy as adjective:
Balmy is also used as an adjective in English language where it implies the meaning of a mild, pleasant and warm weather. It has synonyms like mild, gentle, temperate, summery, calm, tranquil, clement, fine, pleasant, benign and soothing etc.
Balmy or barmy:
Balmy means mild, soothing, and pleasant, and it’s commonly used to discuss weather whereas barmy most commonly means goofy or crazy, stemming from earlier usage of bubbling with excitement or flighty as well as filled with barm. The confusion with these two often comes from a slang variant of “balmy” in the 1800s, which was used in the sense of “weak-minded” or “idiotic.” It was at the same time that the lesser-used “barmy” started to gain a similar definition of “wacko.” The confusion of these two words came to a point that a writer in an 1896 issue of the Westminster Gazette wrote, “Should not ‘balmy’ be ‘barmy’?