One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Any of several small marine fishes of the family Centracanthidae (or Maenidae, Emmelichthyidae), found chiefly in the eastern Atlantic; especially either of two fishes of the genus Spicara (also called Maena), S. smaris and (more fully "blotched picarel") S. maena, which also occur in the Mediterranean and have variable coloration with a black patch on the side.
Late 17th century; earliest use found in Randle Holme (1627–1700), herald painter. From French picarel from Occitan † picarel from picar to prick, pierce + -el, the fish being so called either because it is skewered to dry, or perhaps on account of its piquant taste.
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