Origin of nimrod
- After Nimrod Sense 2, probably from the phrase “poor little Nimrod,” used by the cartoon character Bugs Bunny to mock the hapless hunter Elmer Fudd
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
- The Oxford English Dictionary, in turn, cites a 1933 writing as the first usage of nimrod to refer to a fool, predating Bugs Bunny by at least five years and Steinbeck by nearly thirty: in Hecht and Fowler's Great Magoo, someone remarks "He's in love with her. That makes about the tenth. The same old Nimrod. Won't let her alone for a second." However, this could still have been used in the sense of a hunter (i.e. someone pursuing a love interest).
- In most English-speaking countries, Nimrod is used to denote a hunter or warrior, because the biblical Nimrod is described as "a mighty hunter". In American English, however, the term assumed a derogatory meaning, probably because of Bugs Bunny's references to Elmer Fudd as a "poor little Nimrod". While this was most likely using the term's "hunter" sense, it contributed to the development of a sense "one who was easily confounded".
- An alternative explanation of this sense is that it derives from the John Steinbeck memoir Travels with Charley: In Search of America, in which Steinbeck used the term sarcastically while describing an inquest that was held after a hunter accidentally shot his partner: "The coroner questioning this nimrod..."
- Another possible source of the sense is the play "The Lion of the West" by James Paulding. First performed in 1831, it features a comedic characterization of Davy Crockett named Col. Nimrod Wildfire who attempts to woo a young French woman.