Earliest sense is “fart”, and later “stink” as abbreviation for fysting cur “stinking dog” (1520s). From Middle English fysten (mid-15th century), from Old English. Cognates with Middle Dutch veest and Dutch vijst. Possibly from Proto-Germanic *fistiz (“a fart”), presumably from Proto-Indo-European *pesd-, though this is disputed.
One explanation for the association of farting with small dogs is given in an 1811 slang dictionary, which suggests that the dogs were blamed for farting, specifically defining fice as “a small windy escape backwards, more obvious to the nose than ears; frequently by old ladies charged on their lap-dogs.”
Cognate terms include Danish fise (“to blow, to fart”) and obsolete Middle English askefise (“bellows”, literally “fire-blower, ash-blower”), from Old Norse; originally “a term of reproach among northern nations for an unwarlike fellow who stayed at home in the chimney corner”.
feist (plural feists)
- (US, regional) a small snappy belligerent mixed-breed dog
- (vulgar) A silent (but pungent) fart (flatus)
The term feist is uncommon, but the derived term feisty is common.
- Second-person singular present of feien.