Re: **skivvies**

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Mar 23 1998 - 15:57:12 EST

At 10:31 AM 3/23/98 -0800, Allison Sanders wrote:

>> What meaning do *you* assign to the English
>Very Intersting...actually, I've only heard the
>word used to refer to, well, ummm, (whispering) boxer

OK, time for some creative etymology.

Perhaps "skivvies" is derived from the Greek SKEUOS - "EU" is pronounced
"EV" before a vowel in modern Greek, and probably was in Koine Greek as
well. I'm not sure which of the senses of the word is the origin, but
SKEUOS can refer to:

o Vessel - Any kind of container. Skivvies are obviously a kind of container.
o Body. And by extension, the skivvies which contain it.
o Sexual life. Look at any Victoria's Secret catalog, and you'll get the
o Wife. Well, this may be a case of metonomy.

Note that this last may have a direct connection to a meaning in modern
British English to which Ben Crick brought our attention:

> When I was at school in the 40s/50s, a "Skiv" or a "Skivvy" was a young
> female domestic servant who laid the tables for meals and washed up the
> dishes afterwards. They also cleaned the boarding house generally whilst we
> pupils were at our lessons.

For what it's worth, the plural, skivvies, refers to men's underwear;
skivvy, the singular, refers to a female domestic servant. I'm sure
creative etymologists could have fun with that fact as well.


Jonathan Robie

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