History of the Word part 457
Pussy (n) – A person (especially male) who is lacking in confidence or bravery.
Synonyms: Wimp, chicken, pansy, milquetoast.
Rob won’t knock over the liquor store with us. He’s such a pussy.
At first glance, one might think that this is related to the similar (in fact, identical) slang word for a woman’s genitalia. In fact, this word goes back much further. In the 1800s it was common to compare a man lacking in courage to a pussy cat, as seen in a letter from 1876: “Rob refused to help us rob the liquor store. Sometimes I’m sure he is actually a pussy cat.” Over time, the “cat” part was dropped.
It is possible that this term is even older, however. A recently discovered fragment from an unfinished shakespearean play contains the line “Wherefore will Robert not assist us in our illegal acquisition of the King’s prized spirits? Forsooth, he behaves in the manner of the cowardly pussy cat.”
However, scholars are uncertain if this was a common term at the time, or something which Shakespeare had come up with on his own.
Scholars are also uncertain if any of the information in this article is true at all.