Guy is a word that, these days, can mean any generic group of people of mixed genders but more specifically, things relating to males. Dudes. Bros. Men.

But it started life in the English language meaning “a small rope, wire, or chain.” Um…what?

Guy is actually related to guide (not surprising when you think about it), and when you think about a guy wire. It’s been used in that way since the 1620s, as well for other guiding equipment like cranes and derricks, and it traces its roots back to Germanic words that basically mean “guide” or “guard.”

So what’s the deal? How did it change so drastically?

For that, we can thank a terrorist. Guy was also a French given name, related to the Italian Guido. And Guy Fawkes was one of the members of a rebellion against the English crown in 1605–the one caught with the gunpowder. We’ve probably all heard of Guy Fawkes Day, even those of us across the pond. Well, a critical part of the celebration of this day in November on which the king and Parliament were not blown up, was to parade about one’s town with an effigy of Guy Fawkes. Usually poorly dressed, because what commoners were going to donate good clothes to such a cause?

And so a guy began, by the early 1800s, to mean “a poorly dressed man,” like those effigies. But once we attribute a word to a man of a particular state, it seems the meaning is likely to evolve. Within 60 years, guy could mean pretty much any man and had become a synonym for “fellow.”

So there you go, guys. 😉 Once it meant “fellow,” our modern meaning was but a whisper away.

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