Turns out that the word Tory used to be an insult. Now interchangeable with the word conservative in England, the original Tories were highwaymen! The word was attested in its current form in 1566 to describe a gang of Irish bandits, and meant "outlaw". In the mid-1600s, it was used to describe displaced Irish farmers who often turned to crime, and, in the late 1600s, it became a vulgar term to describe supporters of (Catholic) King James II. This is when Tory became a badge of pride, as some of the aforementioned supporters took on the designation and it came to mean someone on the side of the monarchy in general. It's easy to see how this evolved into the name of a political party. Now, to go backwards in time! Since all this came from Ireland, it's not surprising that Tory is an Irish word. The "outlaw" meaning comes from toruighe, or "plunderer", which, through a connection of searching for money, comes from toirighim, "to pursue". This derives from the Old Irish word toir, meaning "pursuit", and, through a mess in Proto-Celtic, probably goes back to a Proto-Indo-European word for "run".
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 University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd