origin of ‘Froggy’ (French)



Froggy (informal and derogatory): a French person




The noun frog has long been a general term of abuse. For instance, in Þe Story of Inglande (around 1338), the English poet and historian Robert Mannyng of Brunne (circa 1275-circa 1338) wrote that the British giants, led by “that foul frog” Gogmagog, the greatest of them, attacked the Trojans:

So come þe geauntz þat ylke nyght,
& on þe Troiens smyte doun ryght.
fformest was sire Gogmagog,
He was most, þat foule froge.

And, in the morality play Ane Pleasant Satyre of the thrie Estaitis, in Commendatiovn of Vertew and Vitvperatiovn of Vyce (1535?), the Scottish poet David Lindsay (circa 1486-circa 1555) wrote:

– Pardoner: Quhat [= What] kynd of woman is thy wyfe?
– Sowtar [= shoemaker]: Ane quick Devill, Sir; ane storme of stryfe;
Ane Frog that fyles [= pollutes] the winde.

Frog has been applied to the Dutch, but the precise reason for this use is uncertain. It was perhaps an allusion to the marshy and low-lying nature of the Low Countries, and/or to unintelligible spoken Dutch, as in double Dutch. It was perhaps also a specific application of frog as a general term of abuse to the inhabitants of this country, a near neighbour which was a frequent commercial and naval rival of Britain, the Dutch being likened to the second plague of Egypt. The earliest instance of this use is in A seasonable expostulation with the Netherlands. Declaring their ingratitude to, and the necessity of their agreement with the Common-wealth of England (1652), by the English essayist Francis Osborne (1593-1659); the author writes of the “sordidness” of the Dutch merchants

who have not only been known, to sell amunition to the Mahumetans, the blasphemers of their Religion (if they own any by retaile) but even to his Catholike Majesty, bound in Honour no lesse then[= than]  interest, to be their enemy in grosse. Neither had I ever wished the charming of those Froggs, but that I see them so ready to become an Egyptian plague unto us, by croaking against us in our own Waters.

Frog is now specifically applied to the French. In this case too, the precise reason for this is unclear. It was perhaps an allusion to the supposed popularity among French people of frogs’ legs as a dish (but this might constitute an a posteriori explanation). It was perhaps also, partly on account of the shared initial consonant cluster in French and frog, a specific application of the general term of abuse frog, France being the traditional enemy of Britain. The word is first recorded in this sense in The First Dayes Entertainment at Rutland-House, by Declamations and Musick: after the manner of the Ancients (1657), by the English poet, playwright and theatre manager William Davenant (1606-68). The chapter titled The Parisian begins with “the Plea between me a Burgeois of Paris and my Opponent of London”:

Your Kitchins are well lin’d with Beef; and the plentiful exercise of your Chimneys makes up that canopy of smoak which covers your City; whilst those in the Continent are well contented with a clear sky, entertain flesh as a Regalio; and we, your poor French Frogs, are fain to sing to a Salad.

The noun Froggy, denoting a French person, perhaps originally meant frog-eater; it would in this case be comparable to toady, that is to say toad-eater, originally denoting the attendant of a charlatan, employed to eat or pretend to eat toads, held to be poisonous, to enable his master to exhibit his skill in expelling poison. But it is more probable that Froggy is simply a diminutive of Frog in the sense of French person (cf. Frenchy, diminutive of French). Froggy is first attested in a song titled The Jolly Greens, about a “threatened French invasion”, published in The Hull Adviser (Hull, Yorkshire) of 27th February 1852:

If fifty thousand land, by chance,
(We do not stick at trifles),
Oh, won’t we make the “Froggies” dance
To the music of our rifles.
And when victorious we return,
(The French all in the sea),
Oh, then, ye fair ones, won’t ye smile
On your Hull chivalry.

The obsolete noun Froglander originally denoted any foreigner, but it came to be specifically applied to any Dutch person. For example, Sir John Knight, MP for Bristol and Jacobite, delivered on 4th January 1694 a speech in the House of Commons against the Bill for naturalizing Protestant Foreigners. Alluding to the presence of Dutch advisers at court and in the councils of King William III of Orange, he said:

It’s my Judgment, that should this Bill pass, it will bring as great Afflictions on this Nation, as ever fell upon the Ægyptians, and one of their Plagues we have at this time very severe upon us; I mean, that of their Land bringing forth Frogs in abundance, even in the Chambers of their Kings: For there is no entering the Courts of St. James and Whitehall, the Palaces of our Hereditary Kings, for the great Noise and Croaking of the Frog-Landers. […] Let us first Kick the Bill out of the House, and then Foreigners out of the Kingdom.




the second plague of Egypt – Book of Exodus, 8:1-4 (King James Version – 1611):

1 And the LORD spake vnto Moses, Goe vnto Pharaoh, and say vnto him; Thus sayeth the LORD, Let my people goe, that they may serue me.
2 And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogges:
3 And the riuer shall bring foorth frogges abundantly, which shall goe vp and come into thine house, and into thy bed-chamber, and vpon thy bed, and into the house of thy seruants, and vpon thy people, and into thine ouens, and into thy kneading troughes:
4 And the frogges shall come vp both on thee, and vpon thy people, and vpon all thy seruants.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.