Etymology
Advertisement
pajamas (n.)

also pajamahs, 1800, pai jamahs "loose trousers tied at the waist," worn by Muslims in India and adopted by Europeans there, especially for nightwear, from Hindi pajama, probably from Persian paejamah, literally "leg clothing," from pae "leg" (from PIE root *ped- "foot") + jamah "clothing, garment." The modern U.S. spelling is by 1845; British spelling tends toward pyjamas.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
PJs (n.)

short form of pajamas, attested by 1964.

Related entries & more 
jams (n.)
1966, abstracted from pajamas (q.v.). Much earlier English picked up jam "a kind of frock for children" (1793) from Hindi jamah.
Related entries & more 
pyjamas (n.)
also pyjama (adj.), chiefly British English spelling of pajamas. Early spellings in English also include pai jamahs (1800); pigammahs (1834), peijammahs (1840).
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
*ped- 

Proto-Indo-European root meaning "foot."

It forms all or part of: antipodes; apodal; Arthropoda; babouche; biped; brachiopod; cap-a-pie; centipede; cephalopod; cheliped; chiropodist; expedite; expedition; foot; foosball; fetch (v.); fetter; fetlock; gastropod; hexapod; impair; impede; impediment; impeach; impeccable; isopod; millipede; octopus; Oedipus; ornithopod; pajamas; pawn (n.2) "lowly chess piece;" peccadillo; peccant; peccavi; pedal; pedestrian; pedicel; pedicle; pedicure; pedigree; pedology; pedometer; peduncle; pejoration; pejorative; peon; pessimism; petiole; pew; Piedmont; piepowder; pilot; pinniped; pioneer; platypus; podiatry; podium; polyp; pseudopod; quadruped; sesquipedalian; stapes; talipes; tetrapod; Theropoda; trapezium; trapezoid; tripod; trivet; vamp (n.1) "upper part of a shoe or boot;" velocipede.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit pad-, accusative padam "foot;" Avestan pad-; Greek pos, Attic pous, genitive podos; Latin pes, genitive pedis "foot;" Lithuanian padas "sole," pėda "footstep;" Old English fot, German Fuß, Gothic fotus "foot."

Related entries & more 
bee's knees (n.)
1923, a survivor of a fad around this year for slang terms denoting "excellence" and based on animal anatomy. Also existed in the more ribald form bee's nuts. Other versions that lasted through the century are cat's whiskers (1923), cat's pajamas, cat's meow. More obscure examples are canary's tusks, cat's nuts and flea's eyebrows. The fad still had a heartbeat in Britain at the end of the century, as attested by the appearance of dog's bollocks in 1989. Bee's knee was used as far back as 1797 for "something insignificant."
Related entries & more 
cat (n.)

Old English catt (c. 700) "domestic cat," from West Germanic (c. 400-450), from Proto-Germanic *kattuz (source also of Old Frisian katte, Old Norse köttr, Dutch kat, Old High German kazza, German Katze), from Late Latin cattus.

The near-universal European word now, it appeared in Europe as Latin catta (Martial, c. 75 C.E.), Byzantine Greek katta (c. 350) and was in general use on the continent by c. 700, replacing Latin feles. Probably ultimately Afro-Asiatic (compare Nubian kadis, Berber kadiska, both meaning "cat"). Arabic qitt "tomcat" may be from the same source. Cats were domestic in Egypt from c. 2000 B.C.E., but not a familiar household animal to classical Greeks and Romans. The nine lives have been proverbial at least since 1560s.

The Late Latin word also is the source of Old Irish and Gaelic cat, Welsh kath, Breton kaz, Italian gatto, Spanish gato, French chat (12c.). Independent, but ultimately from the same source are words in the Slavic group: Old Church Slavonic kotuka, kotel'a, Bulgarian kotka, Russian koška, Polish kot, along with Lithuanian katė and non-Indo-European Finnish katti, which is from Lithuanian.

Extended to lions, tigers, etc. c. 1600. As a term of contempt for a woman, from early 13c. Slang sense of "prostitute" is from at least c. 1400. Slang sense of "fellow, guy," is from 1920, originally in African-American vernacular; narrower sense of "jazz enthusiast" is recorded from 1931.

Cat's paw (1769, but cat's foot in the same sense, 1590s) refers to the old folk tale in which the monkey tricks the cat into pawing chestnuts from a fire; the monkey gets the roasted nuts, the cat gets a burnt paw. Cat burglar is from 1907, so called for stealth. Cat-witted "small-minded, obstinate, and spiteful" (1670s) deserved to survive. For Cat's meow, cat's pajamas, see bee's knees. For let the cat out of the bag, see bag (n.).

Related entries & more