Nov 4, 2015

Etymology Expeditions: The Dandy

Dandyism was about cultivating a certain aesthetic, appreciating beauty, satisfying one's passions, and a sort of aristocratic intellectual superiority. As Oscar Wilde, a famous dandy in his day, said: "One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art."

The word dandy is from the 1780s, with origins uncertain. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it originally appeared in this Scottish ballad:

"I've heard my granny crack
O' sixty twa years back
When there were sic a stock of Dandies O"
In that region, dandy is a diminutive of Andrew. Dandy might also be a shortened form of the 17th century jack-a-dandy, meaning conceited fellow.

Can a woman be a dandy? Sure! There's even a special word for it: cointrelle, even though dandyess and dandizette were used briefly. Cointrelle comes from the word coint, meaning a skillfully made thing.


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