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date: 25 February 2021

parrot

Source:
The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins
Author(s):

Julia Cresswell

parrot 

[E16th]

The original English term for a parrot was popinjay. This came from French papingay which came, via Spanish, from Arabic babbaga, which may have been formed in imitation of the bird's cry. The ending of the French word was altered to resemble the name of the bird, the jay. The change to a term for a conceited, vain person came in the early 16th century. The origin of the word parrot may lie in the tendency to give pet birds human names. The word, recorded in the early 16th century, could represent French Pierrot, a pet form of Pierre ‘Peter’. People often address a pet bird as ‘Pretty Polly’, and the name Polly has been used to mean ‘a parrot’ since the early 19th century, while Poll is first recorded as a parrot's name in 1600. The word parakeet [M16th] may be a similar formation based on the Spanish given name Pedro, also ‘Peter’. Alternatively it may have come via Italian from a word meaning ‘little wig’, referring to the bird's head plumage. See also moon