c. 1200, shepishe, "of, pertaining to, or resembling a sheep" in some perceived characteristic, from sheep + -ish. Originally "meek, modest, docile, simple," often as qualities of good Christians. With suggestions of "easy to deceive" by c. 1400. The sense of "bashful, over-modest, awkward and timorous among strangers" is recorded by 1690s. Related: Sheepishly; sheepishness. Chaucer, Sidney, and Dylan Thomas uses sheepy (adj.). Sheeply (Old English had sceaplic "of a sheep") seems less common.
updated on August 14, 2022