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Dickensian is a literary term that has been in use for over one hundred fifty years, though the meaning of the term is a bit in dispute. We will examine the wide definition of the term Dickensian, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

The term Dickensian most literally describes something that has the attributes of a story written by Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens wrote prolifically, but he is best known for his novels such as The Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities. There is some debate as to what characteristics of fiction are supposedly summed up with the word Dickensian, but most assume that it refers to an inequality among social classes, poverty, squalor and extremely broad characters. However, Dickensian may also mean jollity and warmth. The word Dickensian came into use in the 1850s, note that the word is capitalized as it is taken from the proper name, Dickens. Occasionally the word Dickensian is used outside of its literary meaning to describe a political idea or a situation in society. In this case, it always is in reference to poverty or inequality among social classes, reminiscent of the dark lives of the underprivileged during Victorian times.


“A Childhood” covers just the first six years of this gifted novelist’s life, but it is a nearly Dickensian anthology of physical and mental intensities. (The New York Times)

Critics last night questioned why Mr Blackford was happy to accuse the Tories of “Dickensian policies” while still accepting support from Conservative donors. (The Sunday Post)

Meanwhile, women who light up our screens just as effervescently as the fat cat fellas at the Bountiful Boys’ Club are mocked by an executive, its Dickensian misogyny now smoked out, which thinks its leading lady, Claudia Winkleman, is only worth a stated £450-500K. (The Yorkshire Post)