One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Cards. In the former game of gleek: a set of four aces, kings, queens, or knaves, in one hand. Also in figurative context. Compare "purtaunte". Now historical.
Mid 16th century; earliest use found in John Palsgrave (d. 1554), teacher and scholar of languages. From Middle French, French mornifle a group of four cards, perhaps from mornifle a slap in the face, with allusion to the impact that a good hand of cards has on an opponent (although this is only attested from 1609, in form morniffle), further etymology uncertain: see discussion in Trésor de la Langue Française s.v. mornifle.
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