One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A prostitute; a loose woman; (also) †a priest's mistress (obsolete). Also in extended use: a weak or effeminate man. In later use archaic or regional.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in William Langland (c1325–c1390), poet. From Pernel, Parnel, female forename (originally a shortened form of Petronilla, and popular as a feminine equivalent to Peter).
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