c. 1400, from Old French pimprenelle, earlier piprenelle (12c.) and directly from Medieval Latin pipinella name of a medicinal plant. This is perhaps from *piperinus "pepper-like" (so called because its fruits resemble peppercorns), a derivative of Latin piper "pepper" (see pepper (n.)); or else it is a corruption of bipinnella, from bipennis "two-winged." The Scarlet Pimpernel was the code name of the hero in an adventure novel of that name published 1905.
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