"fork for lifting and pitching" (hay, etc.), commonly with a long handle and two prongs, mid-14c., altered (by influence of pichen "to throw, thrust;" see pitch (v.1)) from Middle English pic-forken (c. 1200), from pik (see pike (n.2)) + fork (n.). The verb, "to lift or throw with a pitchfork," is attested from 1837.
Entries linking to pitchfork
c. 1200, "to thrust (something) in, drive (a stake), pierce with a sharp point," senses now obsolete, also "to fasten, settle," probably from an unrecorded Old English *piccean, related to prick (v.). The original past tense was pight.
The sense of "set upright" (mid-13c.) as in pitch a tent (late 13c.), is from the notion of driving or thrusting the pegs into the ground. The meaning "incline forward and downward" is from 1510s. The intransitive sense of "to plunge or fall headlong" is by 1680s, probably from the use with reference to ships (see below) extended to persons, animals, etc.
The meaning "to throw, fling, hurl, toss" (a ball, a person, hay, etc.) evolved by late 14c. from that of "hit the mark." Specifically in baseball, "to hurl (the ball) to the batter," by 1868.
Musical sense of "determine or set the key of" is by 1630s. Of ships, "to plunge with alternate fall and rise of the bow and stern" as in passing over waves, 1620s.
To pitch in "work vigorously" is from 1847, perhaps from farm labor. A pitched battle is one in which the armies are previously drawn up in form, with a regular disposition of the forces (from the verb in the sense of "to fix or set in order, arrange," late 15c.). Related: Pitched.
early 13c., pik, pyk, "pointed tip or spike on a staff, pole, weapon, etc.," collateral (long-vowel) form of pic (source of pick (n.1)), from Old English piic "pointed object, pickaxe," which is perhaps from a Celtic source (compare Gaelic pic "pickaxe," Irish pice "pike, pitchfork"). The word probably has been influenced by, or is partly from, Old French pic "sharp point or spike," itself perhaps from Germanic (see pike (n.1)), Old Norse pic, and Middle Dutch picke, pecke. Pike, pick (n.1), and pitch (n.1) formerly were used indifferently in English.
From c. 1400 as "a sharp, pointed mountain or summit." The pike position in diving, gymnastics, etc., is attested by 1928, perhaps on the notion of "tapering to a point."
Old English forca, force "pitchfork, forked instrument, forked weapon," from a Germanic borrowing (Old Frisian forke, Dutch vork, Old Norse forkr, Danish fork) of Latin furca "two-pronged fork; pitchfork; fork used in cooking," a word of uncertain origin. Old English also had forcel "pitchfork." From c. 1200 as "forked stake or post" (as a gallows or prop).
Table forks are said to have been not used among the nobility in England until 15c. and not common until early 17c. The word is first attested in this sense in English in an inventory from 1430, probably from Old North French forque (Old French furche, Modern French fourche), from the Latin word. Of rivers, from 1753; of roads, from 1839. As a bicycle part from 1871. As a chess attack on two pieces simultaneously by one (usually a knight), it dates from 1650s. In old slang, forks "the two forefingers" is from 1812.
updated on June 25, 2020
Dictionary entries near pitchfork