Pussy

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Pussy is an English word meaning:

Etymology

The origins of the word are unknown. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) says that the word puss is common to several Germanic languages, usually as a call name for the cat — not a synonym for cat, as it is in English.

The Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's Third International Dictionary point out similarities with words including:

The medieval French word pucelle referred to a young adolescent girl or a virgin, although this comes from a slang term for virginity puce (= flea) rather than referring to cats (but cf. French chatte (female cat), a current vulgarism for the female genitalia). In the 17th century, the term was also used to refer to women in general. Philip Stubbs, an English pamphleteer, wrote in his 1583 book "The Anatomie of Abuses" that "the word pussie is now used of a woman".

It has been informally suggested in folk etymology that it is a shortened form of the word "pusillanimous", which comes from Latin words meaning "tiny spirit" and is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "showing a lack of courage or determination" or cowardly. Though this meaning would seem to be consistent with the intention of the word "pussy" when used as an insult toward a man, it is a false cognate unrelated to the Germanic derivations of puss and pussy.

Case for Asian origin

Taiwan is the ancestral home of the Austronesian family of languages, and genetic evidence supports the theory that the settlers of the Pacific islands, including the Philippines and East Timor, are descendants of people of Taiwan. In the indigenous language of the Amis people (of Taiwan), the word for cat is "pusi". In Eskimo, it is "pussi". In Cree, it is "bushi". In Kapampangan, one of the major languages of the Philippines, the word for cat is "pusa". In the language of the Aymara of the Andes in Peru, it is "phisi". In Hawaiian, it is "popoki". Since there are many cognates for "pusi", with a tendency to more drift the further from Taiwan one gets, it is most likely that the word is quite ancient, and not a loanword from a different language.

Uses

Cat and similar

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, puss was used as a "call-name" for cats in both German and English, but pussy was used in English more as a synonym for "cat": compare "pussycat". In addition to cats, the word was also used for rabbits and hares as well as a humorous name for tigers. In the 19th century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the meaning was extended "in childish speech, applied to anything soft and furry", as in Pussy Willow. In thieves' slang, it meant "fur coat".

To pussyfoot around the question or point means to be evasive, cautious, or conceal one's opinions. The reference is to the careful soft tread of the cat and has no vulgar implications, other than obvious ties to weakness, which "pussy" sometimes connotes.

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