What’s the origin of the word “walleyed”?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: walleyed.

While on holiday recently, I read the memoir Undress Me In the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman. The story of Gilman’s 1986 trip to China — which had then just opened to tourists — gives new definition to the term “clueless.” A recent university grad, Gilman doesn’t really understand the necessity of planning, of respecting other cultures and of being alert to the possibility of mental illness in her travel companion.

Still the book is entertaining, if you can put aside your irritation with the hapless lead character. In the end, I was grateful that the book caused me to look up the word walleyed. Here is how Gilman use it:

Gunter was impossible to miss. He towered above everyone else, a shaggy, walleyed giant with his meaty hands open by his sides, his belly like a presentation, an offering.

I knew walleyed had something to do with eyes. (Duh.) But I didn’t know it had four potential definitions:
– eyes in which there is an abnormal amount of the white showing, because of divergent strabismus (poor alignment or wandering eye).
-having large, staring eyes, as some fishes.

-marked by excited or agitated staring of the eyes, as in fear, rage or frenzy.

-having an eye or eyes presenting little or no colour.
The word made me think of Marty Feldman (pictured above), an English comedy writer, comedian, and actor, easily identified by his bulbous and crooked eyes, attributed to a botched operation for his Graves’ disease.
The origin of the word is Middle English wawileghed, which in turn comes from the old Old Norse term vagleygr, meaning “uncertain.” 
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