Where does the word “Periwig” come from and What does Periwig mean?

A Periwig, or false hair, called phenake by the Greeks and galerus in Rome, was worn by the ancients.

But, though imitated in the Middle Ages, especially in the early sixteenth century, attendants at the courts of Louis XIV of France and of Charles II of England brought the wearing of false hair into fashion.

Men went so far as to have their own natural hair cut off and converted into wigs. But they were not then called “wigs.”

That word had not yet been coined.

The term was the French word perruque, a word which, of course, few Englishmen could correctly pronounce, though which was eventually turned into the pronounceable peruke.

But perruque was first corrupted to perwyke, to perewig, and ultimately to periwig.

We still have both peruke and periwig in the language, but the latter, perhaps because there was long such diversity of its forms, became abbreviated to the much more convenient wig before 1675, while Charles II still reigned over England.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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