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The English noun bigot is a term of abuse aimed at a prejudiced or closed-minded person, especially one who is intolerant or hostile towards different social groups (especially, and originally, other religious groups), and especially one whose own beliefs are perceived as unreasonable or excessively narrow-minded, superstitious, or hypocritical. The abstract noun is bigotry.
The word was adopted into English from Middle French by 1598, at first with a sense of "religious hypocrite". The word is recorded in the same sense in French as bigot since the 15th century, and was loaned into English as well as into Italian (bigotto) and German (bigott). Around 1900, the word bigot meant in French someone who has an excessive, narrow or petty religious devotion.
In Old French, the word is recorded in the 12th century as a derogatory term applied to the Normans, and is likely based in the Germanic oath formula bī god (i.e. "by God"). Compare, as parallel formations, the French les goddams to refer to the English after their favorite curse; similarly Clément Janequin's "La Guerre," which is about the Battle of Marignano, similarly uses the Swiss German curse "bigot" (i.e. "by god!") in a context about the Protestant Swiss. William Camden writes that the Normans were first called bigots when their Duke Rollo, who when receiving Gisla, daughter of King Charles, in marriage, and with her the investiture of the dukedom, refused to kiss the king's foot in token of subjection unless the king would hold it out for that specific purpose and was urged to do so by those present, answered hastily "No, by God", whereupon the King, turning about, called him bigot, which then passed from him to his people. The twelfth-century Norman author Wace also records that bigot was an insult which the French used against the Normans.
Henry Bradley (1891) proposed that the word originated as a corruption of the name of the Visigoths; Bradley argued that to the Catholic Franks, the Arian Visigoths of Southern France and Spain were the objects of bitter hatred, both on religious and secular grounds.
- Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913): "Bigot (n.) A hypocrite; esp., a superstitious hypocrite. Bigot (n.) A person who regards his own faith and views in matters of religion as unquestionably right, and any belief or opinion opposed to or differing from them as unreasonable or wicked. In an extended sense, a person who is intolerant of opinions which conflict with his own, as in politics or morals; one obstinately and blindly devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion"; "Oxford Dictionaries".: "Intolerance towards those who hold different opinions from oneself"; "Cambridge Dictionaries".: "a person who has strong, unreasonable beliefs and who does not like other people who have different beliefs or a different way of life";
- Le Nouveau Larousse Illustré – Dictionnaire universel encyclopédique (1897-1904 - 2nd volume, page 77)
- Word Histories And Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2004. p. 24. ISBN 0-618-45450-0.
- "bigott" in Pfeifer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen, 2nd ed. 1993. Pfeifer mentions Best, Die Neueren Sprachen N. F. 18 (1969) 497 ff. as suggesting Yiddish begotisch "pious" as a possible source. See also "bigot". Online Etymology Dictionary.
- "La Guerre (La Bataille de Marignan) de Clément Janequin" (in French). Tard Bourrichon.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "Bigot". Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al.
- Ayto, John (1990). Dictionary of Word Origins: The Histories of More Than 8,000 English-Language Words. Arcade Publishing.
- Bradley, Henry, The Story of the Goths, XXXI, 329. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1891.