"maid, virgin, young woman," mid-15c., especially in historical reference to Joan of Arc, the "Maid of Orleans" (called in Old French la pucelle from c. 1423), according to French sources from Vulgar Latin *pulicella "maid" (source also of Italian pulcella), diminutive of Latin pulla, fem. of pullus "young animal," especially a chicken (see foal (n.)), but there are difficulties with this derivation. Also, in 16c.-17c. English, "a drab, a slut; a wanton girl, a harlot."
updated on January 22, 2021