Bookshelp header image for page World Wide Words logo

Git

Q From E Corvin; Gabriella McLeish in London: What is the origin of the word git that I read in a British book?

A Could that have been one of the Harry Potter books? It certainly appears in at least one of them. From before 1300 a get was what had been begotten, a child or offspring. But by about 1500 it had started to be used in Scotland and northern England in the sense of misbegotten, a bastard; from there it became a general term of abuse for a fool or idiot. By about 1700 get seems to have lapsed into slang or dialect, only to reappear in the wider language in the 1940s with a different spelling and lacking the associations with illegitimacy. James Joyce uses the older spelling (and meaning) in Ulysses in 1922: “The bloody thicklugged sons of whores’ gets!” These days, it’s a widely known and used term of abuse in Britain for somebody regarded as totally worthless or useless, most commonly appearing in cries of frustration such as “that stupid git, now look what he’s done!”.

Share this page
Facebook Twitter StumbleUpon Google+

Search World Wide Words

Support World Wide Words!

Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.


Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!

OTHER WAYS TO HELP

Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 23 Sep. 2000

Advice on copyright

The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-git1.htm
Last modified: 23 September 2000.