One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
nounIrish English, English Regional, Scottish, Northern
A children's game, in which one player has to guess the hand in which the other player has concealed a small object, such as a pin or a coin.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Alexander Montgomerie (c1550–1598), poet and courtier. Earliest (in some forms) from nieve + -y (with reduplication) + an element of uncertain origin, perhaps arbitrary, or perhaps a variant of knack, since the traditional rhyme in which the word is used ends with the words ‘I'll beguile ye if I can’. The γ and some forms show reduplication (and usually vowel variation) in the final element; compare knick-knack.
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