Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.

WORD ORIGIN

early 14c., "an artist's fine brush of camel hair," from Old French pincel "artist's paintbrush" (13c., Modern French pinceau), from Latin penicillus "painter's brush, hair-pencil," literally "little tail," diminutive of peniculus "brush," itself a diminutive of penis "tail" (see penis). Small brushes formerly were used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils; meaning "graphite writing implement" apparently evolved late 16c. Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881; pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973.

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Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition Copyright © 2013 by the Philip Lief Group.