The question pretty much says it all... I would like to know when was "Dick" first used as a nickname. Was it before it meant the genital organ?

Silly question, but... admit it, you also want to know.

  • See here Oxford Dictionary: "Mid 16th century (in the general sense ‘fellow’): pet form of the given name Richard." – TrevorD Mar 11 '17 at 23:44
  • Voting to close as 'General reference'. – TrevorD Mar 11 '17 at 23:45
  • What do you mean by general reference? – BaldDude Mar 11 '17 at 23:46
  • "General Reference" means that you can look up the answer in a general reference book, such as a dictionary. See the Help pages for this site. – TrevorD Mar 11 '17 at 23:48
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    "Where can I find answers to simple and basic questions? If your question is simple and can probably be easily answered by looking it up, then you may find common online internet resources to be of some help." from What topics can I ask about here?. – TrevorD Mar 11 '17 at 23:52

The usage of dick as a rhyming version of a name came long before the sexually orientated version, most sources date the use as a nickname to around the 12th and 13th centuries.

In the middle ages it was common practice to use shortened versions of people's names purely because everything was hand-written, and this made the process of writing letters more efficient. Rhyming versions of the shortened name forms were also often used.

As you can read about here: -

The name Richard is very old and was popular during the Middle Ages. In the 12th and 13th centuries everything was written by hand and Richard nicknames like Rich and Rick were common just to save time. Rhyming nicknames were also common and eventually Rick gave way to Dick and Hick, while Rich became Hitch. Dick, of course, is the only rhyming nickname that stuck over time. And boy did it stick. At one point in England, the name Dick was so popular that the phrase "every Tom, Dick, or Harry" was used to describe Everyman.

The usage associated with the male sexual organ, came much, much later. As discussed in this question on stack-exchange: -

Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang'dates the “penis” sense of the word to the mid-19th century. Two other sources, the Oxford English Dictionary and the Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, give citations from 1891 and 1888, respectively.

Although as discussed in that question, it may well have been used before it showed up in print, it certainly wouldn't have been hundreds of years prior, so the use as a short form of a name was earlier.

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  • I would think shortened versions of names originated in the spoken language, not in writing. – herisson Mar 12 '17 at 0:04
  • Check out the source I linked. Shortened versions of names serve two purposes I would say, endearment and efficiency in writing. Dick belongs to the later of the two camps, apparently. – Gary Mar 12 '17 at 0:05
  • I see that the statement is in your source, but I'm not convinced very much by a Mental Floss article by David K. Israel, who as far as I know is not a notable historian or etymologist. "Dick" also doesn't seem any easier to write than "Rich." – herisson Mar 12 '17 at 0:07
  • well perhaps you could answer the question yourself, and link your superior source? – Gary Mar 12 '17 at 0:07
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    +1 And there is Dickon, first recorded literary use refers to a painting of Richard III, Dickon of York. (1452 - 1485). – ab2 Mar 12 '17 at 1:43

It's origin is quite old, and its usage as a nickname appears to precede its sexual connotation:

dick (n.):

  • "fellow, lad, man," 1550s, rhyming nickname for Rick, short for Richard, one of the commonest English names, it has long been a synonym for "fellow," and so most of the slang senses are probably very old, but naturally hard to find in the surviving records.

  • The meaning "penis" is attested from 1891 in Farmer's slang dictionary (possibly British army slang). Meaning "detective" is recorded from 1908, perhaps as a shortened variant of detective.


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