I think it is clear that a sucker means somebody who is naive or gullible, while it sucks means “it is bad”, but I wonder where these two terms come from and what they mean originally?

Could sucker actually mean a baby who was just born and therefore, naive and can’t tell if somebody is lying to them? If so, then what about it sucks?


etymonline has for suck:

O.E. sucan, from PIE root sug-/suk- of imitative origin. Meaning “do fellatio” is first recorded 1928. Slang sense of “be contemptible” first attested 1971 (the underlying notion is of fellatio).

and sucker:

“young mammal before it is weaned”, late 14c., agent noun from suck. Slang meaning “person who is easily deceived” is first attested 1836, in American English, on notion of naivete; the verb in this sense is from 1939. But another theory traces the slang meaning to the fish called a sucker (1753), on the notion of being easy to catch in their annual migrations.

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    the word fellatio actually comes from the Latin verb fellare, which means to suck. – MaQleod Apr 27 '11 at 20:37

Short for "cock sucker", which is the days of non-political correctness and rampant homophobia was a serious and widespread insult/put down. "You suck" having the "cock" understood.

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    You say that as if cocksucker is not a serious insult/put down nowadays. – coleopterist Jul 24 '12 at 13:36
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    but... a girl can say "you suck" with a smile and all people feel happy... but if the third word is implied, I think people's reaction will be different – 太極者無極而生 Sep 14 '12 at 2:22

In the pruning of fruit trees and the like, a "sucker" is a branch which forms in one season. They typically fail to produce fruit and so are trimmed off. I would suppose that it's possible this might be how an agricultural people would refer to someone who is too young and not likely to do anything useful.

For example see: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/trees-shrubs/tree-sucker-removal-and-tree-sucker-control.htm

protected by tchrist Sep 26 '12 at 18:45

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