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From: Anthony Clover <>
Subject: [OEL] Word for 2000-03-30: pightle
Date: Sun, 02 Apr 2000 21:03:00 +0100


Judith Werner wrote:

> pightle. (local) A small field or enclosure; a close or croft.
>
> The first type (see origin below) also as pichtel, pichtil, pictel,
> pigtel, pyghtell, pytell, pightell, putell, pightel, pitle, pightal,
> pightle, and corruptly as pigtail.
>
> The second type also as pichel, pychel, pichil, pughull, pighill,
> peighill; pykkyll, pickhill, pickell, pickle, picle, piddle.
>
> Origin obscure; the form seems to be diminutive. The two types
> pightel and pighel (pichel) are both found soon after 1200; the former
> was midland and southern; in East Anglia and Essex it became before
> 1500 pitel; pichel was northern, and appears to have given the
> hardened form pickel; picle was apparently a phonetic variant of
> pitle, whence perhaps also piddle through pittle.

It may be of interest to note with respect to the first type that James
Orchard Halliwell in his Dictionary of Archaic Words [1850] has PIGHTLE,
which he describes as East English dialect and defines as:

A small meadow; any enclosed piece of land.

He illustrates it, however, with yet another form, taken from the Test.
Vetust. p. 572 (no date given):

Also I will that my feoffees in those my said lands, tenements, rents,
services, wards, marriages, reliefs, escheats, PIGHYTS, meadows, &c.

[In his vocabulary, the "corrupt" PIG-TAIL is exclusively Yorkshire for
"the least candle, put in to make up weight".]

Judith Werner adds:

> Also pingle, listed separately in OED:
>
> pingle (Obsolete except as dialect).
>
> A small enclosed piece of land; a paddock, a close.

Halliwell also has PINGLE, which he calls North English (which includes
Scottish) and defines thus:

A small enclosure, generally one long and narrow.

The shape of this is to be compared with Joy Bristow's definition, which
Judith Werner quotes from The Local Historian's Glossary:

> a gore or triangular piece of land, after enclosure.

One of the key elements is therefore the notion of enclosure.

Moreover, by contrast, Halliwell has the interesting word PINGOT from
Lancashire, defined as:

A small croft.

A comparison with these words used as place-names is perhaps instructive
also, as some of the usages may have derived from specific locations.
PICKHILL itself (in North Yorkshire) is derived according to Eilert
Ekwall as a choice between alternatives: either (1) on the basis of a
unattested personal name from something such as 'Pica's halh (nook)' -
the form Pinca exists and is found as the base for the Norfolk PICKENHAM
where it drops the 'n' by dissimilation; or (2) from the relatively
uncommon OE 'pîc' (meaning a point or pike) in the sense of a pointed
hill, as the OE 'pîcahalh' or the halh by the hills which surround the
place. He notes the likelihood that the personal name Pîca is the
explanation in the cases of Pickworth (Lincolnshire as well as Rutland)
and Picton (Cheshire and North Yorkshire), as well as Picklescott
(Shropshire) from its diminutive Pîcel. But in the form of pîc, the
notion of hill is adduced as the explanation for Pickering (North
Yorkshire), Pixham (Worcestershire), Pickup Bank (Lancashire) and
Pickwell (Leicestershire).

The explanation for another place-name may also cast light on the
possible meaning of these terms in certain areas. Ekwall explains the
river-name Piddle or Puddle (in Dorset) as a word cognate with the
Middle Dutch 'pedel', meaning low land or fen land. He uses this also
to account for the river Piddle Brook (in Worcestershire) and the
derivative Dorset village names of Piddle Hinton, Piddletrenthide,
Puddletown, Affpuddle, Bryants Piddle, Tolpuddle and Turner's Piddle.

Finally, it occurs to me that another possible explanation could be that
the terms pick, pike and so forth represented a measure of some sort,
not unlike the rod, pole or perch. Indeed, Halliwell gives 'pick' (West
English) and 'pickle' (East English) as terms for to glean corn or to
glean a field. Something like this is going on in the cases of the
Scottish word 'perk' meaning a pole or perch (which in one usage is a
linear measure varying from district to district) and 'pickle' (also
'pikkill' and 'puckle') in the sense of a small but indefinite amount of
something or number of persons.

Anthony Clover


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