• pickpocket •
pik-pah-kit • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A thief who steals by plucking valuables from the pockets of his victims without their knowing it.
Notes: The usual order of verb-noun compounds in English is noun-verb: haircut, babysit, and brainwash. However, older words, like today's, have the opposite order. Why this might be so is anyone's guess. It could be by analogy with onomatopoetic compounds imitating common sounds, like tick-tock, drip-drop and clip-clop. Whatever the reason, pick seems to participate in quite a few of these items: picklist, pickpurse, picklock, and pick-quarrel.
In Play: This word is so narrowly defined that we have no room for metaphoric manipulation: "Robin Banks got his start in thievery as a pickpocket." So let's just remind ourselves, keep your wallet pocket buttoned as protection against pickpockets.
Word History: Today's Good Word is a compound comprising pick + pocket. In Middle English pick was piken "to prick" from Old English pician "to prick", borrowed from Old French piquer "to pierce". This French word devolved from Vulgar (Street) Latin piccare "to peck". Apparently the Latin word was onomatopoetic.
Pocket started out as an Old North French diminutive of poque "bag", borrowed by English as poke in the sense of the old adage: "Don't buy a pig in a poke." French borrowed this word from English, then English borrowed it back along with its diminutive (poquette?), spelling it the English way, pocket. (Joakim Larsson of Sweden was kind enough to recommend today's double Good Word.)
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