"type of four-toed Eurasian bird," c. 1300, partrich (late 12c. as a surname, Ailwardus Pertiz), from Old French pertis, alteration of perdis (perhaps influenced by fem. suffix -tris), from Latin perdicem (nominative perdix) "plover, lapwing," from Greek perdix, the Greek partridge, a name probably related to perdesthai "to break wind," in reference to the whirring noise of the bird's wings, from PIE imitative base *perd- "to break wind" (source also of Sanskrit pardate "breaks wind," Lithuanian perdžiu, persti, Russian perdet, Old High German ferzan, Old Norse freta, Middle English farten).
At first the word had many variant spellings; the forms in -g- emerge by mid-15c. The name was applied to similar but unrelated species in the Americas from 1630s.
British slang word with varied senses, not all of them certainly connected; see Partridge, who lists two noun uses: "female pudenda" (c. 1845), which might be back-slang from fan, shortening of fanny (in the British sense); and "nothing," in prostitutes' slang from c. 1940; a verbal use, a euphemism for fuck (v.) in oaths, imprecations, expletives (as in naff off), 1959, "making it slightly less obvious than eff" [Partridge]; and an adjective naff "vulgar, common, despicable," which is said to have been used in 1960s British gay slang for "unlovely" and thence adopted into the jargons of the theater and the armed forces.
small migratory game bird of the Old World, late 14c. (early 14c. as a surname, Quayle), from Old French quaille (Modern French caille), perhaps via Medieval Latin quaccula (source also of Provençal calha, Italian quaglia, Portuguese calha, Old Spanish coalla), or directly from a Germanic source (compare Dutch kwakkel, Old High German quahtala "quail," German Wachtel, Old English wihtel), imitative of the bird's cry. Or the English word might have come up indigenously from Proto-Germanic.
Slang meaning "young attractive woman" is attested by 1859. Applied to similar birds in the New World.
Among such, the species of bob-white, as Ortyx virginiana, the common partridge or quail of sportsmen, are the nearest to the Old World species of Coturnix. In the United States, wherever the ruffed grouse, Bonasa umbella, is called pheasant, the bob-white is called partridge: where that grouse is called partridge, the bob-white is known as quail. [Century Dictionary, 1897]
"troublesome, annoying," 1775, originally in New England dialect, perhaps a dialectal formation from pest (OED compares plaguy "confounded, annoying, disagreeable"). Partridge suggests an origin in Essex dialect. Sometimes in American-English colloquial use a mere intensive, "excessively." Related: Peskily.