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Q From Peppel: In your answer to the question about goody two shoes on the web site, there is a word twee. I can’t find it, other than a noise made by a small bird, and I would like to know its meaning.

A Ah yes, another of my curious Briticisms. It means excessively or affectedly quaint, sentimental or mawkish, sometimes coupled with words like nauseatingly. It’s a strongly negative word, and a very useful one, that is in common British use. It appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century to mean something dainty or sweet, a girly and gushing word. It appears to have developed from tweet, not the noise a bird makes, but a childish attempt at saying sweet. It might have been helped along by a feeling that it could be a blend of tiny and wee (Scots for small), though it isn’t.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
Page created 6 Jan. 2001

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The English language is forever changing. New words appear; old ones fall out of use or alter their meanings. World Wide Words tries to record at least a part of this shifting wordscape by featuring new words, word histories, words in the news, and the curiosities of native English speech.

World Wide Words is copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.
This page URL: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-twe1.htm
Last modified: 6 January 2001.