- Plural of pussy
Pussy is an English word meaning cat. It may also refer to the female genitalia in slang, among other definitions.
EtymologyThe 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 OED and Webster's Third International Dictionary point out similarities with words including:- 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 pudenda). 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 is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "showing a lack of courage or determination" or cowardly. This meaning would seem to be consistent with the intention of the word "pussy" when used as an insult toward a man. This term, however, comes from the Latin words pusillus (petty) and animus (spirit) and is unrelated to the Germanic derivations of puss and pussy.
Cat and similarAccording 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.
GenitaliaThe word "pussy" often refers to the female genitalia. Used in conjunction with "some", the phrase some pussy refers to sexual intercourse itself. Most dictionaries mark the anatomical meaning as "vulgar" or "offensive" and its use is frowned upon in polite company. The German form is cognate (Fotze; compare "Puss-y" to "Fotz-e" [in the style of Futs-sy]), and the French term "chatte" (a female cat) is analogous.
WeaknessThe meaning "weak or cowardly person" has a separate etymology. Websters 1913 Revised Unabridged Dictionary lists this version of pussy as an alternate spelling of "pursy," an otherwise obsolete English word meaning "fat and short-breathed; fat, short, and thick; swelled with pampering ..." The interpretation is often misconstrued, as it contains multiple meanings which some consider derogatory. In fact, when pussy appears in the earlier 1828 edition of the dictionary, this definition is presented for the word, while the older pursy is simply offered as a "corrupt orthography."
Pursy (pronounced with a short u, and with the r slurred or silent) was in turn derived from an Old French word variously spelled pourcif, poulsif, poussif, meaning "to push, thrust, or heave." In this sense, it is cognate with the modern French verb pousser, also meaning "to push."
The word pussy can also be used in a derogatory sense to refer to a male who is not considered sufficiently masculine (see Gender role). When used in this sense, it carries the implication of being easily fatigued, weak or cowardly.
Men dominated by women (particularly their partners or spouses and at one time referred to as 'Hen-pecked') can be referred to as pussy-whipped (or simply whipped in slightly more polite society or media).
Word-play between meanings
- Don't be so beastly! by Justine Hankins. The Guardian, June 14, 2003
- Pussy This, Pussy That by Aura Bogado, 2002.
- Complete lyrics to the George Clinton song from the Motherpage
pussies in German: Muschi
pussies in German: Fotze
pussies in Esperanto: Piĉo
pussies in French: Chatte
pussies in Italian: Fica
pussies in Low German: Muschi