This is one of the few instances in which an original long e (ee) has become shortened to i. The same change occurs in breeches, and in the American pronunciation of been, with no change in spelling. [Century Dictionary]
It is a widespread phenomenon that the words for 'innocent', apart from their legal use, develop, through 'harmless, guileless', a disparaging sense 'credulous, naive, simple, foolish.' [Buck]
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