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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English pursyf (short of breath, asthmatic), probably from Old French pousser (to push; to breathe with difficulty); see French poussif (wheezy).

Alternative forms[edit]


pursy (comparative pursier, superlative pursiest)

  1. Out of breath; short of breath, especially due to fatness.
    • c. 1605–1608, William Shakespeare, “The Life of Tymon of Athens”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act V, scene iv]:
      now breathless wrong
      Shall sit and pant in your great chairs of ease,
      And pursy insolence shall break his wind
      With fear and horrid flight.
    • 1796, Hannah More, The History of Mary Wood, London: J. Marshall & R. White, p. 6,[1]
      We now set off in pursuit of her, all but the farmer, who, being pretty fat and pursy, was not for running a race []
    • 1854, Charles Dickens, chapter 6, in Hard Times. For These Times, London: Bradbury & Evans, [], OCLC 4389957:
      [] People mutht be amuthed, Thquire, thomehow,’ continued Sleary, rendered more pursy than ever, by so much talking []
    • 1904, George Meredith, “Leslie Stephen” in Miscellaneous Prose, London: Constable, 1910, p. 189,[2]
      The chief of the Tramps had a wonderful calculating eye in the observation of distances and the nature of the land, as he proved by his discovery of untried passes in the higher Alps, and he had no mercy for pursy followers.
  2. Fat and short.
    • 1741, [Samuel Richardson], “Letter XXXI”, in Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. [], volume (please specify |volume=I to IV), London: [] C[harles] Rivington, []; and J. Osborn, [], OCLC 1264825423, page 146:
      Now I will give you a Picture of this Wretch: She is a broad, squat, pursy, fat Thing, quite ugly, if any thing human can be so called []
    • 1858, R. M. Ballantyne, Martin Rattler, London: T. Nelson & Sons, 1893, Chapter 1, p. 10,[3]
      [] the vicar [] was particularly fond of boys in general. Not so the doctor, a pursy little man with a terrific frown, who hated boys, especially little ones, with a very powerful hatred.

Etymology 2[edit]

From purse (pucker) +‎ -y and purse (small bag for carrying money) +‎ -y.


pursy (comparative pursier, superlative pursiest)

  1. Puckered.
    • 1861, W. G. Wills, Notice to Quit, London: Hurst & Blackett, Volume 1, Chapter 23, pp. 242-243,[4]
      So Aunt Bell sat down to table—a bony frame, with an anxious green eye, a pursy mouth, and a sweating sickness of bitter words, seeking to break forth at the earliest opportunity.
    • 1954, Jack Kerouac, “51st Chorus” in San Francisco Blues, The Book of Blues, Penguin, 1995, p. 52,
      The laundress has bangs
      And pursy lips
      And thin hips
    • 1966, Cynthia Ozick, Trust, New York: New American Library, Part Four, 2, p. 413,
      “Ah,” she pronounced, and took in Enoch with pursy violated eyes.
  2. Purse-proud; vain about one's wealth.

Derived terms[edit]