WHAT’S IN A NAME?

JACK SNIPE

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your Birding Month -

The word snipe, as used for long-billed stripy sand­pipers, de­rives at least from the 14th Cen­tury from the Old Norse snipa from myris­nipa (moor snipe). There are var­i­ous north-western Euro­pean al­ter­na­tives, in­clud­ing the Old Saxon sneppa, Mid­dle Dutch snippe, Ger­man Sch­nepfe, Swedish snäppe (mean­ing sand­piper) and the Old English snite. The word has be­come un­com­pli­men­tary in the sense of gut­ter­snipe, pre­sum­ably de­rived from the snipes’ choice of gut­ter or ditch-like habi­tat. Snipe has also given us the term sniper, orig­i­nally ap­plied for a shooter ac­cu­rate and skil­ful enough to take down one of these small, fast, jink­ing ‘tar­gets’. The jack part of Jack Snipe prob­a­bly de­rives from Jack as used as a diminu­tive, as in terms like Jack Pike for a small Pike or the ‘jack’ in bowls. How­ever, it may also de­rive from the Welsh word for a Snipe Gi­ack (though that would be pro­nounced with a hard g, so it seems un­likely).

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