June 10, 2007


This phrase made the rounds during my school days applied in particular to a fellow student who is now a well known Bollywood actress and supermodel. One of the girls discovered it in an old obscure book filled with such deliciously old fashioned terms and anybody with a slightly supercilious air would get tagged with it.

Hoity-toity means someone who is pompous,haughty or pretentiously self important. On a milder note it also means given to frivolity, silliness or riotousness. This being the original meaning of the term which later metamorphosed into what it is now.

The frivolousness/riotousness meaning was first recorded in Sir Roger L'Estrange's 1668 translation of The visions of Don Francisco de Quevedo Villegas:
"The Widows I observ'd ... Chanting and Jigging to every Tune they heard, and all upon the Hoyty-Toyty, like mad Wenches of Fifteen."

The later meaning isn't seen until around mid to late 18th century and is recorded in O'Keefe's Fontainebleau in 1784:
"My mother ... was a fine lady, all upon the hoity-toities, and so, good for nothing."

Hoity toity is a reduplicated phrase where one word carries an existing meaning and the other is present for emphasis. In this case the earlier meaning of the term came from the word hoit. This is a now defunct verb meaning to indulge in riotous, noisy mirth. That in turn was formed from hoyden - a boorish clown or rude boisterous girl. The change from one meaning to the other seems to be due to the pronunciation of hoity as heighty and the subsequent allusion to highness or haughtiness.

Dictionary Definitions:
There are intermediate definitions given for this term in two 18th century dictionaries

A new dictionary of the terms ancient and modern of the canting crew says:
"Hightetity, a Ramp or Rude Girl."

A classical of the vulgar tongue by Francis Grose says:
"Heighty toity, a hoydon, or romping girl."



Moi said...

i always felt there's a connection between hoity and haughty...the two sound so freaking similar.....

love the earlier spelling though : hoyty toyty :)

and were u referring to Deepika Padukone by any chance??? I like her ..she was sweet in Alto's "Let's Go" ad....like her dad all the more...:)

suramya said...

:). hoyty toyty does sound better.

yep I was talking about her :):), though I was hoping she'd remain incognito. she's incredibly beautiful more than what she comes across on screen but what an atitude in school, I actually overheard her tell someone who dared to argue with her "u aren't beautiful enough to say such things!!!!!!!!". yes her dad is great, u used to seem him a lot in school while growing up.

suramya said...

* u is I

Radha said...

when did she become a bollywood actress?

suramya said...

well her movie with srk is due to release soon, so me calling her that is ok right?

Radha said...

Shes coming in a SRK movie? I didnt know she is that big in bollywood! I've only seen her in a few music videos :))

yogsma said...

interesting word ..You know there is book by this name by Charles Camden. Deepika Padukone is from your school. That is really cool.

suramya said...

radha : ha ha, well all the best to her

yogsma: I didn't know that, whats the book about? britain aristocracy?

Moi said...

She caught more attention here than the expression itself....am sure the founding father(s) of Semantica will not approve !!! hehe

suramya said...

oops :(, sorry chief

Moi said...

haha..but where's Chief??? He's missing again!!!

yogsma said...

Suramya - book is about fantasy of a small man named Hoity Toity.I haven't read complete.It is really old book.