Pascal Trégueretymology, French/English, literature, religionanimals, cats, Christianity, economics, folk etymology, john Heywood, Latin, phrases, Wycliffe

In this expression, the noun poke denotes a baga small sack. That is indigenous Anglo-Norman and Old northern French forms such as poke and pouque, variants the the Old French forms poche and pouche — the critical of which is the beginning of English pouch. (Incidentally, English pocket is native Anglo-Norman poketpokete, diminutive develops of poke.)

The expression to buy a pig in a poke simply cautions versus buying or agree something without an initial seeing or assessing it: if you don’t want to finish up v something of much less value 보다 expected, you need to ‘look in the bag’, the is to say examine the merchandise carefully. That is comparable to Latin caveat emptor, literally let the buyer beware.

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The an allegory is recorded as early on as roughly 1275 in the poem called The Proverbs that Hendyng:

Wan male ȝevit þe a pig, opin þe powch (= when a man offers thee a pig, open the pouch).

A manuscript date from about 1450 has:

When me profereth þe pigge, opon þe pogh, For once he is one olde swyn, then tyte hym nowȝt. Translation: when a man proffers the pig, open up the pough <= bag>, For when it is an old swine, thou perform not take it it.

Produced throughout the years 1503-36, the commonplace publication of Richard Hill, a London grocer, contains

When ye proffer the pigge open up the poke.

together through such proverbs together “Better yt ys late 보다 never.” and also “A gode begynnyng makyth a gode endyng.

In Two hundred epigrammes, vpon two hundred prouerbes with a thyrde hundreds newely included and make by Iohn Heywood (1555), the English playwright and also epigrammatist man Heywood (1496?-1578?) wrote:

Bying a Pyg: ns wyll neuer farewell the pyg in the poke: Thers plenty of a foule pyg in a feyre cloke <= a same cloak>.

A different of to to buy a pig in a poke, to purchase a cat in the sack seems to have actually been used only once; that is uncovered in De Blasphemia, contra Fratres (around 1380), by the English spiritual reformer john Wycliffe (circa 1330-84):

To bye a catte in þo sakke is bot litel charge : to bye chirchis by symonye semes sumwhat siker : bot because that to farewell þus heven and broþerhed the Crist, fight semes chaffere the Lucifer, and also withouten grounde. Translation: come buy a cat in the bag is but little charge; come buy churches by simony seems somewhat safe; but as because that buying thus heaven and also brotherhood the Christ, it appears chaffer <= trade> of Lucifer, and without ground.

This synchronizes to the obsolete French expression acheter chat en poche, or en sac, literally to to buy cat in poke, or in sack. The complying with is from A Dictionarie of the French and also English Tongues (1611), through Randle Cotgrave:

Acheter chat en poche, ou en sac. Us say, come buy a pig in a poke.

French likewise had vendre chat en poche, literally to sell cat in poke, and acheter le chat pour le lièvreto purchase the cat because that the hare.




A popular yet erroneous theory, the which numerous variants exist, establishes a connection between to buy a pig in a poke and to let the cat out of the bag.

According come this theory, a corrupt farmer, claiming come be selling a young pig, could substitute a cat in a tied bag. A circumspect buyer would study the purchase on the spot; one unwary one would not do so till it was as well late. Either way, the cat would then be out of the bag and also the fact would be known.

This concept makes little sense, due to the fact that a live cat in a bag deserve to hardly be mistaken for a piglet.

Additionally, the phrase to permit the cat the end of the bag, i beg your pardon is only recorded in the second fifty percent of the 18th century, around five century after the metaphor a pig in a poke, has only been linked with the latter within the paper definition of this erroneous theory.

The existence, prior to that of to allow the cat out of the bag, the the English and also French phrases to buy a cat in the sack and acheter/vendre chat en poche is no a counterargument, as the last phrases have actually never appeared in comparison to the an allegory conveyed by the former. As for acheter le chat to water le lièvre, it describes a dead cat substituted because that a dead hare in a hunter’s video game bag.


I have exposed several other folk etymologies, in details in the following articles: – origin the ‘Indian summer’ and French ‘été sauvage’The usual explanation the ‘Hobson’s choice’ is fallacious.

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