(obsolete), late 14c., pigges-nie, an endearing form of address to a girl or woman, apparently from Middle English pigges eye, literally "pig's eye," from pig (n.1) + neyghe, a variant of eye (n.) with unetymological -n- from min eye, an eye, etc. (see N). But pig-eyed is "having small, dull eyes with heavy lids, appearing sunken." See OED for explanation of why pig's eye might have been felt as a compliment. In a pig's eye! as an adverse retort is recorded from 1872.
Hir shoes were laced on hir legges hye; She was a prymerole, a piggesnye, For any lord to leggen in his bedde. [Chaucer, "Miller's Tale"]
Entries linking to pigsney
Middle English pigge "a young pig" (mid-13c., late 12c. as a surname), probably from Old English *picg, found in compounds, but, like dog, its further etymology unknown. The older general word for adults was swine, if female, sow, if male, boar. Apparently related to Low German bigge, Dutch big ("but the phonology is difficult" -- OED).
By early 14c. pig was used of a swine or hog regardless of age or sex. Applied to persons, usually in contempt, since 1540s; the derogatory meaning "police officer" has been in underworld slang at least since 1811.
The pigs frisked my panney, and nailed my screws; the officers searched my house, and seized my picklock keys. ["Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence," London, 1811]
Another Old English word for the animal was fearh, which is related to furh "furrow," from PIE *perk- "dig, furrow" (source also of Latin porcus "pig," see pork). "This reflects a widespread IE tendency to name animals from typical attributes or activities" [Lass].
Synonyms grunter, porker are from sailors' and fishermen's euphemistic avoidance of uttering the word pig at sea, a superstition perhaps based on the fate of the Gadarene swine, who drowned. The image of a pig in a poke is attested from late 14c. (see poke (n.1)). Flying pigs as a type of something unreal is from 1610s.
c. 1200, from Old English ege (Mercian), eage (West Saxon) "eye; region around the eye; apperture, hole," from Proto-Germanic *augon (source also of Old Saxon aga, Old Frisian age, Old Norse auga, Swedish öga, Danish øie, Middle Dutch oghe, Dutch oog, Old High German ouga, German Auge, Gothic augo "eye"). Apparently the Germanic form evolved irregularly from PIE root *okw- "to see."
HAMLET: My father — methinks I see my father.
HORATIO: Where, my lord?
HAMLET: In my mind's eye, Horatio.
Until late 14c. the English plural was in -an, hence modern dialectal plural een, ene. Of potatoes from 1670s. Of peacock feathers from late 14c. As a loop used with a hook in fastening (clothes, etc.) from 1590s. The eye of a needle was in Old English. As "the center of revolution" of anything from 1760. Nautical in the wind's eye "in the direction of the wind" is from 1560s.
To see eye to eye is from Isaiah lii.8. Eye contact attested from 1953. To have (or keep) an eye on "keep under supervision" is attested from early 15c. To have eyes for "be interested in or attracted to" is from 1736; make eyes at in the romance sense is from 1837; gleam in (someone's) eye (n.) "barely formed idea" is from 1959. Eye-biter was an old name for "a sort of witch who bewitches with the eyes."
fourteenth letter of the English alphabet; in chemistry, the symbol for nitrogen.
In late Middle English a and an commonly were joined to the following noun, if that word began with a vowel, which caused confusion over how such words ought to be divided when written separately. In nickname, newt, and British dialectal naunt, the -n- belongs to a preceding indefinite article an or possessive pronoun mine.
Other examples of this from Middle English manuscripts include a neilond ("an island," early 13c.), a narawe ("an arrow," c. 1400), a nox ("an ox," c. 1400), a noke ("an oak," early 15c.), a nappyle ("an apple," early 15c.), a negge ("an egg," 15c.), a nynche ("an inch," c. 1400), a nostryche ("an ostrich," c. 1500). My naunt for mine aunt is recorded from 13c.-17c. None other could be no noder (mid-15c.). My nown (for mine own) was frequent 15c.-18c. In 16c., an idiot sometimes became a nidiot (1530s), which, with still-common casual pronunciation, became nidget (1570s), now, alas, no longer whinnying with us.
It is "of constant recurrence" in the 15c. vocabularies, according to Thomas Wright, their modern editor. One has, among many others, Hoc alphabetum ... a nabse, from misdivision of an ABC (and pronouncing it as a word), and Hic culus ... a ners. Also compare nonce, pigsney. Even in 19c. provincial English and U.S., noration (from an oration) was "a speech; a rumor."
The process also worked in surnames, from oblique cases of Old English at "by, near," as in Nock/Nokes/Noaks from atten Oke "by the oak;" Nye from atten ye "near the lowland;" and see Nashville. (Elision of the vowel of the definite article also took place and was standard in Chancery English of the 15c.: þarchebisshop for "the archbishop," thorient for "the orient.")
But it is more common for an English word to lose an -n- to a preceding a: apron, auger, adder, umpire, humble pie, etc. By a related error in Elizabethan English, natomy or atomy was common for anatomy, noyance (annoyance) and noying (adj.) turn up 14c.-17c., and Marlowe (1590) has Natolian for Anatolian. The tendency is not limited to English: compare Luxor, jade (n.1), lute, omelet, and Modern Greek mera for hēmera, the first syllable being confused with the article.
The mathematical use of n for "an indefinite number" is attested by 1717 in phrases such as to the nth power (see nth). In Middle English n. was written in form documents to indicate an unspecified name of a person to be supplied by the speaker or reader.
updated on June 08, 2020