• synonyms


or pic·a·nin·ny, pic·ca·nin·ny

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 pickaninny

Historical Examples

  • Just as I got out there came along the Pickaninny that had gone over on the rainbow.

    Queer Stories for Boys and Girls

    Edward Eggleston

  • Piccaninny, Pickaninny, pik′a-nin-i, n. a little child: an African or negro child.

  • Having bought a fowl from a native in a canoe, the native asked me if I wanted “Pickaninny stop along him fella.”

  • Presently a Pickaninny came along with a small keg in his hands.

British Dictionary definitions for 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