• hussy •
Pronunciation: hê-zee, hê-see • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: (Mildly offensive) A bad girl or woman, a girl or woman of loose morals or one who is simply rude and saucy (or, in the US, sassy).
Notes: Today this word is only mildly offensive, though at one time it was much more so and may still be in some quarters. Today it is used rather lightly if not humorously. Indeed, some girls and women might strive to achieve the brazen outspokenness thought to characterize a hussy. Some still spell this word huzzy though most of us seem to have settled on the spelling hussy. The plural is hussies (or huzzies), with an IE instead of the Y before S in either case.
In Play: Today's word usually arises with an epithet indicating why the speaker thinks the person is a hussy: brazen hussy, saucy hussy, idle hussy are common phrases: "Who is the brazen hussy who used the men's room while the toilet in the ladies' room was being repaired?" However it is used, we tend to smile at this term today rather than take it seriously: "Maisy, don't be such an idle hussy! Get out of that chair, go out, and meet some men!" Oh, those were the days.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a reduction of Middle English huswif "housewife", from hus "house" and wif "woman". Woman itself is a reduction of wif-man "woman person". Early on the pronunciation of this word split into a reduced form, hussif, used as a slang variant of the original. The original maintained its contact with the words for "house" and "wife", arriving in the Modern English we speak as housewife. The meaning of hussif, on the other hand, gradually acquired the sense of "any ordinary woman or girl", and declined from there to an unpleasant girl or woman. In parallel with the shift in meaning, the pronunciation and spelling continued to degenerate to hussy, the word we began with today. (Today we thank Ralph Mowrey, whose suggestion led to the discovery of the fascination in today's Good Word.)