some word questions

Robyn Starkey rohina at
Sat Aug 21 01:28:58 EDT 2004

> >Yes, "pikey" is (derogatory) slang for gypsy (or vagabond, or tramp).  It's
> >strictly British; I've never heard it here in Ireland.  A swift trip to my
> >Brick (otherwise known as the New Shorter OED) tells me that it seems to be
> >a variant of "piker" (both forms from the mid-19th century), which in turn
> >is apparently (OED's word) derived from "'pike', a turnpike road.  Freq. in
> >'come down the pike', appear on the scene; come to notice."  Presumably the
> >word originally referred to the people's wandering habits.
>In *The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue*, "To pike" and "Pike off" are
>given as "to run away".  I'd suppose that comes from the pike-road,

Oh, and hence "pikers": people who run away and/or chicken out of things.


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