Higgledy-Piggledy Streets In Norwich

higgledy-piggledy streets in Norwich

According to the Oxford dictionary, the origin of higgledy-piggledy dates from the late 16th century and is a rhyming jingle, probably with reference to the difficulties of herding pigs.

The definition in the Oxford Dictionary says that the word describes something ‘in confusion or disorder’, which means I have always been wrong in what I thought it meant. For me, it just meant jumbled up – not confused – just not in order. There may be no difference, but confusion seems to indicate that the desire was for order but it was not fulfilled. Whereas for me, higgledy-piggledy just means out of order – with no burning desire for order that has been thwarted or unfulfilled.

The Etymology site at Etymonline mentions other similar double words. I never thought about it but I know all these and I guess you do too: hanky-panky, hocus-pocus, hurly-burly, hodge-podge, harum-scarum, helter-skelter, flim-flam, fiddle-faddle, hotch-potch, hum-drum, tittle-tattle, shilly-shally, topsy-turvy.


  1. Joan E. Miller says:

    Not to be confused with Piggly Wiggly, which is a grocery chain in some parts of the U.S.!


    1. Tamara says:

      Hey, Joan, my dad used to talk about Piggly Wiggly!! He grew up in Missouri, by the way.


  2. Re higgledy-piggledy, I think you may find your answer here (which coincidentally was also posted today: )


  3. Tamara says:

    David, from what I learned about linguistics and language changing over the course of decades and centuries – it could be that ‘higgledy-piggledy’ has now assumed a different definition in the mindsets of most people. Like you, I do not think of it as meaning that order must be taken over whatever is ‘higgledy-piggledy’ – streets or otherwise.


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