A fishwife or fish fag is a woman who sells fish. [cite book|title=Oxford English Dictionary|url=|accessdate=2008-04-27|quote=A woman who sells fish] Such women were notoriously loud and foul-mouthed as in the proverb, "To swear like a fishwife". One reason for their outspokenness is that their wares were highly perishable and so lost value if not sold quickly. [citation|url=|title=Touchstone's Butterwomen|author=Gary Taylor|journal=The Review of English Studies|year=1981|volume=XXXII|issue=126|pages=187-193|doi=10.1093/res/XXXII.126.187|publisher=Oxford University Press]


London's traditional fish market was frequented by such types who were known as "the wives of Billingsgate". "They dressed in strong 'stuff' gowns and quilted petticoats; their hair, caps and bonnets were flattened into one indistinguishable mass upon their heads. ... They smoked small pipes of tobacco, took snuff, drank gin and were known for their colourful language." [cite book|title=London: The Biography|author=Peter Ackroyd|isbn=0385497717|year=2003|publisher=Anchor]


The case "Bourhill v Young" of 1942 concerned a pregnant Glasgow fishwife who had suffered psychiatric illness after witnessing a motorcycle accident. This went to the House of Lords which held that a person of "customary phlegm" would not have been expected to suffer so. [citation|url=|title=Bourhill v Young|Publisher=Scottish Council of Law Reporting|date=5 August 1942]

ee also

* Harridan
* Shrew
* Termagant


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Fishwife — Fish wife , n. 1. A fishwoman. [1913 Webster] 2. A woman who abusively scolds other people, often using coarse or vulgar language. [PJC] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • fishwife — 1520s, from FISH (Cf. fish) + WIFE (Cf. wife) in the “woman” sense …   Etymology dictionary

  • fishwife — ► NOUN ▪ a coarse mannered woman who is prone to shouting …   English terms dictionary

  • fishwife — [fish′wīf΄] n. pl. fishwives [fish′wīvz΄] 1. a woman who sells fish 2. a coarse, scolding woman …   English World dictionary

  • fishwife — UK [ˈfɪʃˌwaɪf] / US noun [countable] Word forms fishwife : singular fishwife plural fishwives old fashioned a woman who speaks rudely in a loud voice …   English dictionary

  • fishwife — [[t]fɪ̱ʃwaɪf[/t]] fishwives N COUNT (disapproval) If you say that someone is behaving like a fishwife, you mean that they are shouting a great deal and behaving in a very unpleasant and bad tempered way. [mainly BRIT] …   English dictionary

  • fishwife — noun Etymology: Middle English Date: 15th century 1. a woman who sells fish 2. a vulgar abusive woman …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • fishwife — 1) a woman who sells fish; 2) a foul mouthed coarse, abusive woman 3) the female wife or consort of a homosexual male (U.S. slang, mid 1900s onward) …   Dictionary of ichthyology

  • fishwife — /fish wuyf /, n., pl. fishwives. 1. a woman who sells fish. 2. a coarse mannered, vulgar tongued woman. [1375 1425; late ME fisshwyf. See FISH, WIFE] * * * …   Universalium

  • fishwife — noun a) A woman who sells or works with fish. b) A vulgar, abusive or nagging woman with a loud, unpleasant voice …   Wiktionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”