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.
updated on June 08, 2020