The Duchess of Chevreuse as Diana the Huntressby Claude Deruet, 17th century

We see a lot of historical heroines described as feisty–and why not? It’s a great word, right? It means “spirited,” right?

Wrong. Though I just learned this recently, and now I’m wondering if I’m guilty of using this wrongly, LOL. First of all, feisty wasn’t ever used until 1896. At which point it was an Americanism that meant “aggressive, exuberant.”

But here’s the kicker. Do you know where it comes from? I didn’t. But apparently it’s from fice, a word for a dog. Particularly a stinking dog. For centuries, folks would use fice (also spelled feist) to describe, er, passing gas.

So not exactly a compliment, LOL. And I’m going to think twice about using it again in anything but a contemporary, where that original meaning has been largely forgotten.


Don’t forget I have two giveaways running! The first one, for The Wyoming Heir, will run through Tuesday 1/14/14. The second, for winner’s choice of one of my books, will go through Thursday 1/16/14.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email