[Ads-l] cockpit

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 5 01:00:59 UTC 2019

My column in the Wall St. Journal this week is on the history of the word

(Sorry for the paywall.)

Here are a few antedatings I came across in my research.

* cockpit 'a pit for cockfighting' (OED2 sense 1a: 1587)

Miles Huggarde, _The Displaying of the Protestantes_, 1556, p. 82 (EEBO)
"They stailed [stalled?] it aboute in maner of a Cocke pytte, where all the
people myght see them, and their comunion."

* cockpit (fig.) 'a place where a contest is fought out' (OED2 sense 2:

Roger Ascham, _The Scholemaster_, 1570, p. 51 (EEBO)
"I haue bene a looker on in the Cokpit of learning thies many yeares: And
one Cock onelie haue I knowne, which with one wing, euen at this day, doth
passe all other, in myne opinion, that euer I saw in any pitte in England,
though they had two winges."

>From the same book (p. 20):
"But, of all kinde of pastimes, fitte for a Ientleman, I will, godwilling,
in fitter place, more at large, declare fullie, in my booke of the

[Ascham evidently never finished his "booke of the Cockpitte" before his
death in 1568. _The Scholemaster_, which he began in 1563, was published
posthumously in 1570.]

* cockpit 'the space occupied by a pilot in the fuselage of an aircraft'
(OED2 sense 3c: 1914)

The Guardian (UK), Aug. 26, 1909, p. 7, col. 2
"There are aeroplanes here which are meant to be admired in their hangars
rather than to fly... Conceive the lightest possible racing 'four' with a
neat S-cylinder motor perched in the very nose of her... a cockpit just
behind the mast fitted with neat arrangements for controlling the engine,
the rudder, and the planes."

Los Angeles Times, Jan. 9, 1910, part II, p. 20, col. 1
"Glen H. Curtiss is going to fly in a Curtiss biplane of his own
invention... The pilot sits in a neat little cockpit above the machine, at
the rear middle of the main plane."


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list