Midget (from midge, a sand fly) is a term for a person of unusually short stature that is considered by some to be pejorative. While not a medical term, it has been applied to persons of unusually short stature, often with the medical condition dwarfism, particularly proportionate dwarfism.
Merriam-Webster dictionary states that the first use of the term "midget" was in 1816.
Midgets have always been popular entertainers, but were often regarded with disgust and revulsion in society. In the early 19th century, however, midgets were romanticized by the middle class and regarded with the same affectionate condescension extended to children, as creatures of innocence. The term "midget" came into prominence in the mid-19th century after Harriet Beecher Stowe used it in her novels Sunny Memories of Foreign Lands and Old Town Folks where she described children and an extremely short man, respectively.P. T. Barnum indirectly helped popularize the term "midget" when he began featuring General Tom Thumb, Lavinia Warren and Commodore Nutt in his circus. "Midget" became linked to referencing short people put on public display for curiosity and sport. Barnum's midgets, however, were elevated to a position of high society, given fantasy military titles, introduced to dignitaries and royalty, and showered with gifts.
When interviewed for a 1999 piece, performers engaged in ongoing "Midget Wrestling" events stated that they did not view the term "Midget Wrestling" as derogatory, but merely descriptive of their small size; however, others responding to the piece disagreed, with one stating that the performances themselves perpetuated an outdated and demeaning image.
Towards the end of the twentieth century, the word became considered by some as a pejorative term when in reference to people with dwarfism. One notable exception, though, was accomplished actor Hervé Villechaize who preferred the term "midget".