fem. proper name, from Hebrew Abhigayil, literally "my father is rejoicing," from abh "father" + gil "to rejoice." In the Old Testament Abigail the Carmelitess was a wife of David. Used in general sense of "lady's maid" (1660s) from character of that name in Beaumont & Fletcher's "The Scornful Lady." Her traditional male counterpart was Andrew. The waiting maid association perhaps begins with I Samuel xxv, where David's wife often calls herself a "handmaid."

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