Why is Your Small Finger Called a Pinky?

pinkIt is a fact that not all pinky fingers are pink. That will lead to the question that may have been asked by many about why the small finger is called a pinky. The answer to this question will require one to look into the etymology of the word pinky. One should look into where the word originated from and how was the word used or what the word meant originally.

Why the Small Finger is called a Pinky – Etymology

Some might speculate that the name pinky for your small finger is a rather new invention. It is also interesting that many have assumed that the term is actually American in origin. Surprisingly, the term is not as much American nor is it as much a newly coined word. It has actually been around for quite a while and doesn’t even come close to the American continent.

Looking into the etymology of the word will give you the facts why the small finger is called a pinky. The word pinky, referring to your small finger, has been around for quite some time. In fact, an etymological dictionary published in 1808 by John Jamieson shows that the term pinky actually has its origins in Scotland. Jamieson’s dictionary details the etymology of Scottish words.

However, as we dig deeper into the issue of one’s little finger and the origin of its curious moniker, we will move on to where the Scots would have picked up the term. This would eventually reveal more about why the small finger is called a pinky. The moniker actually derives its meaning to what is an older sense of the word, which really means tiny or something small.

It is curious that this allusion to something small or tiny is indeed another sense of the word ‘pink’. Thus the use of pink or pinky for the little finger is quite accurate given the original sense of the word. This also clarifies the logic behind why the small finger is called a pinky.

Moving forward, the Scots actually picked up the term from another European people, which are the Dutch. The Dutch ‘pinck ooghen’ refers to an eye that is half shut. Translated literally, it would equate to ‘pink eye’. You might be interested to know that the modern-day Dutch for a half-open eye still resembles this old Dutch word, which is ‘pinkogen’. The reason why the small finger is called a pinky is not because little European fingers are pinkish in color; but it is due to the proliferation of this Dutch word.

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2 Responses to “Why is Your Small Finger Called a Pinky?”

  1. Chris says:

    That is a very interesting and great reason to why our littlest digit is called “pinky.” Thank you for the research and information provided. Another to add to my book of imponderables.

  2. Kenneth Adair says:

    Are you sure that “pinky” is not just a reflex of the ancient Indo-European root for “five”… the pinky is the fifth finger, right? In Lithuanian the word for five is “penki,” for example. Perhaps we should look to see what the pet name for this finger is (was) in Scandinavian tongues as a possible route to the Britain and into Scots.