Why is Peggy Short for Margaret?

What do these four women have in common?

Why, the fact that they all have the same name of course!

OK, they don’t really, but it’s not entirely inaccurate to say so. Why not? Read on…

This post began while I was listening to the Bob Dylan album Nashville Skyline earlier, specifically the song “Peggy Day.” It made me think of the surname Day, and I wondered if it might be related to the regular English word day, or perhaps words meaning god, as it’s not too different from words for god in Romance languages.

But no, it just comes from David. Which is fine, I suppose, but not enough to write anything interesting. But then I thought about that other name: Peggy.

You might be aware that Peggy, and Peg, are short for Margaret. But how on Earth does that make sense! Well, let me tell you…

Unfortunately that answer is also a bit boring. Meggie was a medieval English diminutive form of Margaret (like Maggie), and at some point, for an unknown reason, this changed to Peggy. OK, I suppose we can’t know everything about diminutive forms of names in medieval times. Still, bear with me…

I got to thinking more about the name Margaret, particularly how its translations in other languages mean daisy (Marguerite in French and Margherita in Italian, for example). Yet in English we’ve got both the names Daisy and Margaret. What’s going on there then?

Interestingly, the name Margaret originally meant pearl (and of course that’s a name too!). However, the original Sanskrit word it seems to have been derived from (मञ्जरी or mañjarī) could also mean cluster of blossoms, which is probably why Marguerite in French became the name for the oxeye daisy. The fact that we use both Margaret and Daisy in English isn’t too strange if you think about it. Daisy is the older word, of Germanic origin, but English is also heavily influenced by French and Latin, and it’s not hard to imagine that in medieval times people were familiar with common French words.

Finally, Daisy is a really interesting name! Its origins sound too good to be true, but are in fact simply both good and true. It comes from the Old English dægesege, which meant day’s eye, so called because the flower’s petals open at dawn and close at dusk.

Now that is interesting! Thanks for taking me on such a great journey, Peggy Day!

17 thoughts on “Why is Peggy Short for Margaret?

  1. That’s interesting! And slightly confusing. Is there more names out there that have more than two variations? I know michael/mike and richard/dick are probably similar, but still not the exact same, but I haven’t heard about many with more than two variations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Crumbs. My best friend’s little daughter was called Daisy, but was taken early. So what you have written is very poignant with her in mind. It all just seemed to fit.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lots of names like this – Cathy, Katy, Kate for example.
    Another ‘translated’ name I’ve noticed is Belle, Bella and Linda – all mean beauty/beautiful, but we don’t call girls ‘beautiful’ in the English form. British modesty perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think so: we seem to resist obviously literal surnames in English compared to other languages. Italian surnames are often very interesting as they’re often quite common words. I’ve come across Sabato (Saturday), Rotondo (Round), Dicembre (December), and Mezzatesta (Halfhead!)

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