Cullion is an all-too-often-underused archaic insult with a meaning equivalent to "rascal" or "despicable person". Sadly, after a peak in usage in 1822, it has been fading in popularity and will soon be dead entirely, except for one usage in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew that will surely be thrust upon English classes for years to come. The etymology here is fascinating, so let's dive right in: as the Middle English word coilon, which meant "testicle". Obviously, that took on a pejorative meaning through time, just as many of our modern swear words also refer to genitalia. Coilon comes from the Old French word coillon, with the same meaning, and that in turn comes from Latin coleus, or "scrotum". Go back a couple centuries further, and we've arrived at Ancient Greek koleos, which meant "a sheath" because the scrotum is a sheath for the testes. Finally, it's reconstructed to Proto-Indo-European kel, "cover". What an intriguing word origin!
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard College in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd