Printable Version
Pronunciation: pris-i Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Overly prim and proper, priggish, slightly uptight and girly, supercilious in an effeminate manner.

Notes: This mildly pejorative epithet is treated as a native English word in that its adverb is prissily and noun, prissiness. A personal noun, priss, as in 'little Miss Priss', was back-formed from the adjective in the 1920s. If you want a word with a bit more negativity, prissified awaits your disposition.

In Play: Only women and effeminate men may be prissy: "Helen Highwater chafed at her prissy schoolmarm who wore too much pink for a biology teacher." It has been tried from time to time on objects rather than people: "Harwood didn't like the prissy bar with all its 'beautiful people', dressed in the latest Hollywood fashions, sipping their cocktails, and talking about the latest styles."

Word History: No one knows where today's Good Word came from. It probably arose from a Southern US dialect since it was first attested in an 1842 article in the New Orleans Picayune. It might be a mispronunciation of precise or pristine like cuss. The Oxford English Dictionary suggests it might be a blend of prim and sissy. Who knows? (Now let's thank again Daniel Obertance for recommending today's glistening Good Word with a foggy origin.)

Dr. Goodword,

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