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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) a lady’s maid

Derived from the Hebrew for ‘father rejoices’, the first name Abigail has been used since the early 1600s in English as another word for a female attendant or lady’s maid.

Use of the name in this context derives directly from the Bible, wherein Abigail was the humble wife and self-proclaimed ‘handmaid’ of King David. But in the early 18th century, this meaning was further reinforced by the appointment of Lady Abigail Masham as one of the chambermaids (and eventual royal favourites) of the British queen Anne.

Indeed, this association of the name eventually led several well-known English authors to christen a number of maids, servants and other attendant characters in their works with the name Abigail. As well as Jonathan Swift and Henry Fielding, Charles Dickens invented the character of Miss Abbey Potterson, the schoolmarmish landlady of The Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters pub, in Our Mutual Friend.

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