late 14c., pijoun, "a dove, a young dove" (early 13c. as a surname), from Old French pijon, pigeon "young dove" (13c.), probably from Vulgar Latin *pibionem, dissimilation from Late Latin pipionem (nominative pipio) "squab, young chirping bird" (3c.), from pipire "to peep, chirp," a word of imitative origin. As an English word it replaced culver (Old English culufre, from Vulgar Latin *columbra, from Latin columbula) and native dove (n.).
The meaning "one easily duped, a simpleton to be swindled" is from 1590s (compare gull (n.2)). Pigeon-hearted (1620s) and pigeon-livered (c. 1600) are "timid, easily frightened." A pigeon-pair (by 1800) are twins of the opposite sex (or family consisting of a boy and a girl only), so called because pigeons lay two eggs, normally hatching a male and a female.
"the seed of a hardy leguminous vine," a well-known article of food, early or mid-17c., a false singular from Middle English pease (plural pesen), which was both single and collective (as wheat, corn) but the "s" sound was mistaken for the plural inflection. From Old English pise (West Saxon), piose (Mercian) "pea," from Late Latin pisa, variant of Latin pisum "pea," probably a loan-word from Greek pison "the pea," a word of unknown origin (Klein suggests it is from Thracian or Phrygian).
In Southern U.S. and the Caribbean, used of other legumes as well. Pea soup "soup made from peas" is recorded by 1711 (as pease-soup); the term was applied to London fogs at least since 1849. Pea-green as a hue resembling fresh peas is by 1752. Pea-shooter "toy consisting of a long straw or tube through which dried peas may be blown" is attested from 1803.
"heavy coat generally worn by sailors in cold or stormy weather," 1721, a partial loan-translation of North Frisian pijekkat, from Dutch pijjekker, from pij "coarse woolen cloth" + jekker "jacket." Middle English had pee "coat of coarse, thick wool" (late 15c.). Related: Pea-coat.
"police informer," 1859, American English; earlier "one who betrays the unwary (or is used to betray them)," 1821, originally a decoy bird (1812); said to be from decoys being fastened to stools to lure other pigeons. But perhaps related to stall "decoy bird" (c. 1500), especially "a pigeon used to entice a hawk into the net" (see stall (n.2)). Also see pigeon.
also pigeonhole, 1570s as "a small recess for pigeons to nest in," from pigeon + hole (n.); later "hole in a dovecote for pigeons to pass in and out" (1680s). Extended meaning "a little compartment or division in a writing desk," etc. is from 1680s, based on resemblance. Hence, "an ideal compartment for classification of persons, etc." (by 1879). The verb is from 1840, "place or file away in a pigeon-hole." The figurative sense of "lay aside for future consideration" is by 1854, that of "label mentally" by 1870.
[Y]ou will have an inspector after you with note-book and ink-horn, and you will be booked and pigeon-holed for further use when wanted. ["Civilisation—The Census," Blackwood's Magazine, Oct. 1854]
1788, colloquially, originally of horses, by 1801 of persons, "having the toes curled in;" see pigeon. Of birds, "having the foot structure which characterizes the pigeon," by 1890.
also chick-pea, 1712, a false singular of chich-pease (1540s), earlier simply chich (late 14c.), cich, from Old French chiche "chick-pea" (13c.), from Latin cicer "pea," which is of uncertain origin, but with likely cognates in Greek kikerroi "pale," Armenian sisern "chick-pea," Albanian thjer "lentil." The Latin plural, cicera, is also the source of Italian cece and was borrowed into Old High German as chihhra (German Kichererbse).
The English word was altered after 17c. on the model of French pois chiche , and folk-etymologized as chick-. For second element, see pease.