- "Biddy" is actually a very interesting word because it has two separate origins, both fairly well-documented, which is unusual for a slang term. The primary meaning of "biddy" is "chicken," and it first appeared in the early 17th century. The word probably came from the nonsense syllables used to call chickens -- something like "here biddybiddybiddy," I suppose. By the late 18th century "biddy" had been adopted as a derogatory slang term for women, much in the same unfortunate way that "chick" was in the 1960's.
- However, "biddy" in this sense might have died a welcome death had it not been for the influx of Irish immigrants into the U.S. in the early 19th century. Young Irish women often had their passage paid by upper-class American families, for whom they would then work as domestic servants while they paid off their debt. The practice was so widespread that such women came to be known as "Biddies," from a shortening of "Bridget," a common Irish women's name. This use of "biddie" reinvigorated the word, and ever since it has been employed by insolent children to torment their elders.
Wimmin Wimps & Wallflowers: An Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Gender and Sexual Orientation Bias in the United States. By Philip Herbst, Intercultural Press, Published 2001, ISBN:1877864803. Google Books
- Among the Celtic Irish, Brigit, meaning "exalted", was a pagan goddess of fertility and healing who was later Christianized and known as St. Brigit.
- In the 18th century Bridget became a popular female Christian name, with Biddy or Biddie as the diminutive or affectionate form.
- In the 19th Century, it became a generic for an Irish maid.
- Also came to be used for a slattern or prostitute
- In mid 20th century used among black speakers for an attractive little girl, or a small old woman.
- Common meaning in US is an elderly woman, especially one regarded as fussy or mean or a gossipy busybody. (Often as "old biddy")
Online Etymology Dictionary
- biddy "old woman," 1785; meaning "Irish maid-servant" (1861) is Amer.Eng.; both from pet form of common Irish proper name Bridget.
From my Collins Dictionary of First Names.
- The name BRIDGET was derived from a Celtic Goddess whose name meant "strength" and from the 5th century Irish saint, BRIDGET,, or from the 14th century saint Brigitto, whose name meant "Mountain protection". This Irish name appears in the forms Bridged, Bridgit, and Bride, with the diminutives Bridie and BIDDY.
Black Slang: A Dictionary of Afro-American Talk By Clarence Major , Published 1971 Routledge, ISBN:0710071795
- Biddie (1940's) an attractive little girl or a small old woman
WordNet (r) 2.1 (2005) :
- n 1: adult female chicken [syn: hen, biddy]
- 2: young bird especially of domestic fowl [syn: chick, biddy]