UK 16th century. Of unknown origin. Earlier noun senses ("tinker" and "thief"), as hyponyms of "undesirable person", may have informed later senses ("conceited person").
prig (plural prigs)
- (Britain, archaic, thieves' cant) A tinker.
1566, Harman, Thomas, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors:
- These droncken Tynckers, called also Prygges.
- (Britain, archaic, thieves' cant) A petty thief or pickpocket.
- A deliberately superior person; a person who demonstrates an exaggerated conformity or propriety, especially in an irritatingly arrogant or smug manner.
1849, Thackeray, William Makepeace, “A Hopeless Case”, in Doctor Birch:
- I have always had a regard for dunces; — those of my own school-days were amongst the pleasantest of the fellows, and have turned out by no means the dullest in life; whereas many a youth who could turn off Latin hexameters by the yard, and construe Greek quite glibly, is no better than a feeble prig now, with not a pennyworth more brains than were in his head before his beard grew.
- (archaic) A conceited dandy; a fop.
1822, Dolby, Thomas, Benchiana, page 67:
- A rap now at the door made all resound, / And in two bouncing blowings did rebound, / With two flash-men, a dandy, and a prig', / With whom they had been running of the rig.
- (petty thief): For semantic relationships of this sense, see thief or pickpocket in the Thesaurus.
- (person exhibiting excess propriety): goody-goody, prude, puritan
- (conceited dandy): For semantic relationships of this sense, see dandy in the Thesaurus.
- prig and buz
- prig napper (“thief taker”)
- work on the prig
a person showing exaggerated conformity
- (slang, dated) To filch or steal.
- to prig a handkerchief
1591, Greene, Robert, The Second and Last Part of Conny-catching:
- Now, this Trailer he bestrides the horse which he priggeth, and saddles and bridles him as orderly as if he were his own, and then carieth him far from the place of his breed, and ther sels him.
- To ride
- To copulate
- (steal): For semantic relationships of this sense, see steal in the Thesaurus.
- (copulate): For semantic relationships of this sense, see copulate in the Thesaurus.
- Grose, Francis (1788) A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 2nd edition, London: S. Hooper
- Farmer, John Stephen (1890–1904) Slang and Its Analogues, page 297–301
Of unknown origin.