From Middle Englishphilippe, filippen (“to make a sound with right forefinger and thumb, snap”). Origin uncertain. Probably an alteration of Middle Englishflappen (“to hit, slap, clap, applaud”). More at flap.
A fillip gradually became “something of small importance; a trifle.” “The rest is not worth a fillip with the finger.” And, the word could also express a short space of time (perhaps the time it took to “flick” the finger). “The tortoise..in a fillip of the finger was down in the gardens of Riu Gu.” Only in the 18th and 19th centuries did its current usage, as encouragement or stimulus, tend to dominate.
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