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The meaning and origin of the expression: Piggy-wiggy


What's the meaning of the phrase 'Piggy-wiggy'?

'Piggy-wiggy' is a pet name for a pig.

It is also used as a term of endearment or, as an insult, a reference to someone who is overweight.

What's the origin of the phrase 'Piggy-wiggy'?

What's the meaning and origin of the phrase 'Piggy-wiggy'?We now associate the word piggy with the language of the nursery. In the 17th century it was a widely used name for a pig.

In the 19th century piggy was also used as the name of a hedgehog and people today still often refer to them as hedgepigs.

'Piggy' led directly to two other commonplace words - piggyback and piggy-bank.

The 16th century expression 'pick pack on your back' evolved into 'pick-a-back' and later, in the 19th century, to piggyback.

Piggy-banks were invented in the early 20th century. Originally, these were made of earthenware and had to be smashed in order to retrieve the savings inside - which sounds like fun.

The first example I can find of the word piggy in print is in Francis Bacon's collection of Apophthegmes New and Old, 1625:

There was a Ladie of the West Country, that gave great Entertainment at her house to most of the gallant Gentlemen thereabout: And amongst others, Sir Walter Ralegh was one. This Lady, though otherwise a stately Dame, was a notable good Huswife; and in the morning betimes, she called to one of her Maids, that lookt to the Swine, and askt; Is the piggy served?

It appears from the context of the above that what the lady was asking was "Is the pig to be served for breakfast?".

The first example I can find of the use 'piggy-wiggy' is in Rattle for Grown Children a collection of songs and poems by ‘Young D'Urfey’, 1766, in the lyric of a song called St. Anthony and His Pig:

O my pretty piggy-wiggy,
More sweet than is the figgy,
That grows on yonder twiggy,
Or sugar candy;
My love for thee surpasses
All that which pretty lasses
Have for their looking-glasses,
Or Tristram Shandy

See other phrases associated with Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban (1561–1626):

If the mountain will not come to Muhammad
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing
Hostage to Fortune
The last words of Francis Bacon

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

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