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piccaninny

[pik-uh-nin-ee]
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noun, plural pic·ca·nin·nies.
  1. pickaninny.
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Origin of piccaninny

First recorded in 1650–60

pickaninny

or pic·a·nin·ny, pic·ca·nin·ny

[pik-uh-nin-ee]
noun, plural pick·a·nin·nies. Older Use: Now Offensive.
  1. a term used to refer to a black child.
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Origin of pickaninny

1645–55; probably ultimately < Portuguese pequenino, diminutive of pequeno small; as a word for “small child,” pickaninny and its variants are widespread in English-based creoles of the New World and West Africa; compare Jamaican English pickney, West African English pickin small child

Usage note

This is a dated term, originally used in a neutral or even affectionate way among slaves in the West Indies, but now perceived as insulting.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for piccaninny

Historical Examples

  • The animals and the Piccaninny all frisked around in high excitement.

    Baby Jane's Mission

    Reginald Parnell

  • The Piccaninny told the Bush Baby that he would find some honey for her.

    Piccaninnies

    Isabel Maud Peacocke

  • And I've been asleep with my head upon my dear, naughty old Bear, with all my animals and the Piccaninny round me.

    Baby Jane's Mission

    Reginald Parnell

  • However, the Piccaninny and the Rabbit soon began a firm friendship by playfully jogging one another over.

    Baby Jane's Mission

    Reginald Parnell

  • It was arranged that the Piccaninny and the Rabbit were to charge together from a distance and see which could unhorse the other.

    Baby Jane's Mission

    Reginald Parnell


British Dictionary definitions for piccaninny

piccaninny

esp US pickaninny

noun plural -nies
  1. offensive a small Black or Aboriginal child
  2. (modifier) tinya piccaninny fire won't last long
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Word Origin

C17: perhaps from Portuguese pequenino tiny one, from pequeno small

pickaninny

noun plural -nies
  1. a variant spelling (esp US) of piccaninny
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Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for piccaninny

n.

also pickaninny, 1650s, from West Indies patois, formed as a diminutive from Spanish pequeño or Portuguese pequeno "little, small," of uncertain origin, related to French petit (see petit (adj.)). As late as 1836 applied affectionately to any small child or baby, regardless of race.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper