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

In this expression, the noun poke denotes a baga little sack. It is indigenous Anglo-Norman and also Old northern French forms such as poke and pouque, variants of the Old French forms poche and pouche — the last of i m sorry is the origin of English pouch. (Incidentally, English pocket is indigenous Anglo-Norman poketpokete, diminutive develops of poke.)

The expression to buy a pig in a poke simply cautions versus buying or accepting something without first seeing or assessing it: if friend don’t want to finish up v something of less value 보다 expected, you must ‘look in the bag’, that is come say examine the was carefully. That is comparable to Latin caveat emptor, literally let the the person who lives beware.

You are watching: Buy a pig in a poke

The an allegory is taped as beforehand as approximately 1275 in the city called The Proverbs that Hendyng:

Wan guy ȝevit þe a pig, opin þe powch (= as soon as a man gives thee a pig, open the pouch).

A manuscript dating from roughly 1450 has:

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

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

When ye proffer the pigge open the poke.

together v such proverbs as “Better yt ys late than never.” and also “A gode begynnyng makyth a gode endyng.

In Two hundreds epigrammes, vpon 2 hundred prouerbes v a thyrde hundred newely added and make by Iohn Heywood (1555), the English playwright and epigrammatist man Heywood (1496?-1578?) wrote:

Bying a Pyg: i wyll neuer taking leave the pyg in the poke: Thers countless a foule pyg in a feyre cloke <= a same cloak>.

A variant of to purchase a pig in a poke, to buy a cat in the sack seems to have been provided only once; the is discovered in De Blasphemia, contra Fratres (around 1380), by the English religious reformer john Wycliffe (circa 1330-84):

To taking leave a catte in þo sakke is bot litel fee : come bye chirchis by symonye semes sumwhat siker : bot because that to bye þus heven and also broþerhed the Crist, hit semes chaffere that Lucifer, and withouten grounde. Translation: to buy a cat in the sack is but tiny charge; to buy church by simony appears somewhat safe; yet as for buying therefore heaven and brotherhood of Christ, it appears chaffer <= trade> that Lucifer, and also without ground.

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

Acheter conversation en poche, ou en sac. We say, come buy a pig in a poke.

French also had vendre chat en poche, literally to market cat in poke, and acheter le chat pour le lièvreto to buy the cat for the hare.




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

According come this theory, a dishonest farmer, claiming to be offering a young pig, might substitute a cat in a tied bag. A circumspect the person who lives would study the purchase on the spot; one unwary one would certainly not carry out so until it was as well late. Either way, the cat would then be out of the bag and also the reality would be known.

This theory makes small sense, due to the fact that a live cat in a bag deserve to hardly be mistaken because that a piglet.

Additionally, the phrase to allow the cat out of the bag, which is only recorded in the second half of the 18th century, around five century after the metaphor a pig in a poke, has only been connected with the latter within the paper definition of this erroneous theory.

The existence, prior to that of to let the cat the end of the bag, the the English and also French phrases to buy a cat in the sack and acheter/vendre chat en poche is not a counterargument, together the last phrases have never appeared in contrast to the metaphor conveyed by the former. Together for acheter le chat to water le lièvre, it refers to a dead cat substituted because that a dead hare in a hunter’s video game bag.


I have actually exposed number of other people etymologies, in certain in the following articles: – origin of ‘Indian summer’ and also French ‘été sauvage’The normal explanation the ‘Hobson’s choice’ is fallacious.

See more: Where Do Deer Sleep When It Snows, All About Deer Sleeping Habits 2021

the authentic origin of ‘to rain cats and dogs’origin of ‘once in a blue moon’Kilkenny catsthe authentic beginning of ‘a pretty kettle of fish’origin of ‘to buttonhole’ (to detain in conversation)origin that ‘point-blank’between the devil and also the deep blue seameaning and origin of ‘the adversary to pay’origin the ‘to turn a blind eye’.