Akimbo is a stance with hands on hips and elbows turned out, usually showing impatience or defiance.

Akimbo is an old word that is only heard in this phrase, or very occasionally and more recently, as ‘legs akimbo’. Another such example is ‘aback’, which only occurs in ‘taken aback’.

In Middle English akimbo appeared as kenebowe and is thought to possibly come from Old Norse. Suggested origins are the Icelandic keng-boginn, ‘bent in a horseshoe curve’; the Medieval Latin cambuca, ‘ in a crooked bow’; or the Old French kane, ‘pot’ plus the Middle English boue ‘bow’.

The word has been around since 1400. In The Tale of Beryn, an addition to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it is found as, “The hoost… set his hond in kenebowe”.

In recent times the word has found a new use. In certain computer games to choose ‘guns akimbo’ gives your avatar a gun in each hand.