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Contributor Contrib.babycrookston on 4/1/2011
Diminutive of MAGGIE and MARGARET, from the English word for the common European bird, known for its chattering, before c.1600 known simply as pie. The first element is from MAG, short for Margaret, long used in proverbial and slang English for qualities associated generally with women, especially in this case "idle chattering" (see Magge tales "tall tales, nonsense," early 15c.; also French margot "magpie," from MARGOT, pet form of MARGUERITE). Second element, pie, is the earlier name of the bird, from Old French pie, from Latin pica "magpie," feminine of picus "woodpecker," possibly from Proto-Indo-European base *pi-, denoting pointedness, of the beak, perhaps, but the magpie also has a long, pointed tail. The birds are proverbial for pilfering and hoarding, can be taught to speak, and have been regarded since the Middle Ages as a bird of ill omen.