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

None of the various word tracers has attempted to explain why the small shut-off valve was named petcock.

Though a cock, it is distinctly no one’s pet.

Until someone turns up with a better explanation, we suggest that pet was merely a contraction of petty or petit, meaning “small, minor, inferior.”

An objection to this theory is that we have no record that the valve was ever known as a “petty cock”; it was petcock (or pet-cock) from the earliest printed use, around the mid-nineteenth century.

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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