What does the word “chivvied” mean?

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Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: chivvied…

I love encountering words for which I already know the meaning but have no idea about their history or etymology. Chivvied is one such word.

I read it recently in Emma Donoghue‘s book, The Pull of the Stars. Here is how she used it:

The jangling alarm clock had roused me from sleep. I slapped down its knob and chivvied myself: Up you get.

I already knew the word meant to tell someone (or yourself) repeatedly to do something — essentially, to nag — but I was unfamiliar with its etymology. Interestingly, it probably comes from the ballad Chevy Chase, a 15th century English song telling the story of a large hunting party upon a parcel of hunting land (or chase) in the hills along the Anglo-Scottish border. The party turned into a battle between the English and the Scotts.

Incidentally, the actor Chevy Chase was born Cornelius Chase — named after his grandfather. But the  nickname “Chevy” was given to him by his grandmother from the song. As a descendant of the Scottish Clan Douglas, she thought the name appropriate.

Originally the noun chevy referred to a hunting cry, a the term that later meant ‘a pursuit.’  Subsequently,  the verb ‘to chase, or worry’ appeared in the mid-19th century.


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