There's been a nice bit of totty on TV over the holiday period; that is attractive women.

girls or women collectively regarded as sexually desirable:

But what is the etymology of the word?

It's often used in "posh totty". Was it originally an upper-class term?

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    There is also a 'Hot totty' as well which is Hot tea with honey, brandy or whiskey. The origins I believe is Ireland
    – user61762
    Jan 9, 2014 at 16:48
  • 3
    In my neck of the woods, that is known as a "hot toddy": cocktails.about.com/od/cocktailrecipes/r/httdy_ht.htm (fyi - I'm not the downvoter) Jan 9, 2014 at 18:56

5 Answers 5


The word "babe" in the US refers to a beautiful or handsome person with sex appeal. It is of course derived from the word "baby," which means infant. Similarly, in the UK, the word "totty" evolved from the word "tot," which means small child.

  • 3
    If you could include references and maybe dates that would be great, but otherwise, it's a very valid answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 11, 2014 at 21:24
  • I'm not so sure about the derivation from tot, little child. I assume that tot is somehow connected with to toddle and toddler. Well, I think not the appropriate metaphor for an attractive woman.
    – rogermue
    Jun 21, 2015 at 9:43
  • OED totty 1. Affectionate diminutive of tot n.4; a tiny tot or little child. Jun 22, 2015 at 17:29
  • @rogermue: I think it's very much a "Briticism". As it happens, I met a young woman last week who's been known to friends and family as Totty since she was a baby, simply because one of her siblings couldn't pronounce Charlotte properly. She said most of her contemporaries don't even know of the condescending slang usage, so it's probably safe to assume it's getting a bit dated now. Jun 22, 2015 at 17:35
  • Longman's DCE has totty, BrE, informal, not polite: an offensive word used by men to refer to women who they think are sexually attractive. - Maybe the word changed from affectionate deminutive to someting offensive.
    – rogermue
    Jun 22, 2015 at 17:51

Two UK-focused dictionaries of slang point to a narrower (and less benign) reading of totty (or rather tottie) than is implied by equating the term with babe. From Tony Thorne, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1990):

tottie, totty, totsie n British a girl or women in general, seen as potential sexual partners. The word meant prostitute or woman of easy virtue in the 19th century and is probably an affectionate diminutive of Dorothy. It is still a fairly common term all over Britain particularly among working class males and servicemen. [Example:] 'A nice little tottie.'

Interestingly, another diminutive of Dorothy, Doll, was a common slang term meaning "prostitute" in the late 1500s through the middle 1700s, as is reflected in a character named Doll Common, a prostitute who plays a significant role in Ben Jonson's The Alchemist (1610).

From Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, eighth edition (1984):

Tottie; occ. Totty. ... 3. tottie, rarely totty. A high-class whore: from ca. 1880. Ex Dot, Dorothy, or ex dottie, -y a little child,: perhaps influenced by titty [defined as "a sister; a girl or young woman: Scots coll.," which Partridge says may represent a child's pronunciation of sister].—4. Hence, a girl, a young woman, esp. if of a compliant nature, but not a whore: R[oyal] N[avy]: C.20. 'That mad pusser. Gone native. Shacking up with a Japanese tottie somewhere' {John Winton, We Saw the Sea, 1960).

Partridge also has an entry for the allied expression Tottie fie:

Tottie (or -y) fie. A smart young woman given to 'throwing her weight about'; a prostitute or near prostitute with such tendencies: Londoners', esp. Cockneys': C.20. The fie is of exclamatory origin ('Oh my!') ... Hence, Tottie Fay (pronounced Fye), alternatively Tottie Hardbake, a female assuming a haughty air: derisive Cockney: since ca. 1890.

In any case, both of these sources ultimately trace tottie to the name Dorothy.


Two words I would put to people researching for consideration:

"Totter" as in to walk unsteadily / tiltingly, as an inebriated or footsore person may, or, indeed, a person who had recently had sex.

"Tot up", short for "total up" from the Latin, "totus", meaning "total". This may be used in a sense of as in perform addition (tot / totted / totting up) or to accumulate, as we would use "totalled" today.

A prostitute may tot up a dozen clients in a night, and then tot up the money earned in the morning.

Either of these observations could plausibly be applied to prostitutes as a euphemism or epithet.

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    This is more of a comment than an answer as it does not address the question directly.
    – fev
    Aug 21, 2022 at 12:15

Etymonline has an entry for toddy, noun. It is as Kristina Lopez said with her link a special alcoholic hot drink based on a Hindi word. If toddy is used with reference to a woman I assume it is a metaphor, seeing such a woman has about the same effect as the hot spicy alcoholic drink.



Check out Hottentot - used as an offensive term in Europe after women from Khoikhoi tribes with prominent buttocks were exhibited as a public spectacle in 19th Century. Some of the characature images to be found online are likely more likely to have lead to the term totty having roots in Hottentot than in the origins of other explanations here.

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