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UK 16th century. Of unknown origin. Earlier noun senses ("tinker" and "thief"), as hyponyms of "undesirable person", may have informed later senses ("conceited person").
prig (plural prigs)
- A deliberately superior person; a person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety, especially in an irritatingly arrogant or smug manner.
- 1849, Thackeray, William Makepeace, “A Hopeless Case”, in Doctor Birch:
- I have always had a regard for dunces; — those of my own school-days were amongst the pleasantest of the fellows, and have turned out by no means the dullest in life; whereas many a youth who could turn off Latin hexameters by the yard, and construe Greek quite glibly, is no better than a feeble prig now, with not a pennyworth more brains than were in his head before his beard grew.
- 1872, George Eliot [pseudonym; Mary Ann Evans], Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life, volume (please specify |volume=I, II, III, or IV), Edinburgh; London: William Blackwood and Sons, OCLC 948783829, book (please specify |book=I to VIII):
- A prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.
- (archaic) A conceited dandy; a fop.
- Synonyms: see Thesaurus:dandy
- 1822, Dolby, Thomas, Benchiana, page 67:
- A rap now at the door made all resound, / And in two bouncing blowings did rebound, / With two flash-men, a dandy, and a prig', / With whom they had been running of the rig.
- 1891, Hardy, Thomas, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, page 140:
- The manner of the scholar had nearly disappeared; still more the manner of the drawing-room young man. A prig would have said that he had lost his culture, and a prude that he had become coarse.
- (Britain, archaic, thieves' cant) A tinker.
- 1566, Harman, Thomas, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors:
- These droncken Tynckers, called also Prygges.
- (Britain, archaic, thieves' cant) A petty thief or pickpocket.
- c. 1610–1611, William Shakespeare, “The VVinters Tale”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: […] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act IV, scene iii]:
- Out upon him! Prig, for my life, prig! He haunts / wakes, fairs, and bear-baitings.
- 1838, Boz [pseudonym; Charles Dickens], Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress. […], volume (please specify |volume=I, II, or III), London: Richard Bentley, […], OCLC 558204586:
- Oh, why didn't he rob some rich old gentleman of all his walables, and go out as a gentleman, and not like a common prig, without no honour nor glory!
- parish prig
- prig and buz
- prig napper (“thief taker”)
- work on the prig
a person showing exaggerated conformity
a petty thief
- (slang, dated) To filch or steal.
- 1591, Greene, Robert, The Second and Last Part of Conny-catching:
- Now, this Trailer he bestrides the horse which he priggeth, and saddles and bridles him as orderly as if he were his own, and then carieth him far from the place of his breed, and ther sels him.
- To ride.
- To copulate.
- [Francis Grose] (1785) , “Prig”, in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd edition, London: Printed for S. Hooper, […], OCLC 1179630700.
- Farmer, John Stephen (1890–1904) Slang and Its Analogues, page 297–301
Of unknown origin.