December 16, 2013

Case File #013.12.16: HUSSY

In the era of Middle English, hussy was merely an informal variation of housewife—the latter was spelled husewif back then—and had no negative connotations whatsoever. The two words remained synonymous into the early years of modern English, but sometime during the first half of the sixteenth century, hussy came to be applied to any woman or girl whether married or not. In the latter half of the seventeenth century, the upper class adopted hussy as a derogatory designation for women of lower rank. And by around 1800, the word had generally come to mean “a woman of low moral values,” though it was often used, as it is today, with an air of jocularity.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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