Ravenous and peckish: Eating like a bird?

This sign stood propped outside the doors of the Lake Louise ski resort.

I contemplated the raven and asked myself, “Is that where the word ravenous comes from?” As in, so hungry you’ll tear something to bits in search of food.

Apparently not. According to etymonline.com, the word comes from an old French verb raviner meaning “to prey, to plunder, devour greedily.” The word is not etymologically related at all to raven.

In light of that sign, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

A few days ago, my husband said that he was feeling peckish. The word is not commonly used, but it was a favourite one of his parents. He adopted its use for when he has that, “I could eat” feeling. I asked myself, “Is that word related to birds, as in how they peck at their food?”

I prepared myself for disappointment, after the ravenous let-down. But this time my good friend etymonline.com brought me joy. The word originates from Middle Low German pekken “to peck with the beak.”

At the moment, I am not ravenous, but I expect shortly I will feel peckish. When the time comes, I will eat like a bird.

8 thoughts on “Ravenous and peckish: Eating like a bird?

  1. kyoungtravels

    Nice post! I love finding out where words originated. Bill and I use “peckish” all the time. I didn’t realize it was uncommon.

  2. Ally Bean

    I, too, am disappointed about the lack of connection between ‘raven’ and ‘ravenous.’ I, too, am thrilled to know that peckish is just like it should be, related to beaks and birds and pecking. Good research, fun post.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I will acknowledge that my research was not extensive and would not stand up to the scientific method, but it was fun!. I’m heading off to dinner with friends now, contemplating how ravenous I will be by the time my food arrives.

  3. karen

    Arlene, I like the way your brain works. Peckish is the term I use when cheese ‘n crackers are in order…or a good cookie. I rarely feel peckish around fruit or veggies for some strange reason…

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Hi Karen, somehow I totally missed this comment! Apparently it takes a major power outage for me to use my phone app for this and discover things I missed before.
      Yes, cheese and crackers sounds exactly right for peckish. A little nosh, as they say.
      I hope you guys are faring okay in the aftermath of this. We are still without power.

  4. Joni

    I’ve always thought of peckish as a British expression for feeling a bit sick? I did not know it was associated with hunger, but I guess food can fix whatever ails you!


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