One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1A tiny childlike being who inhabits the water in, or in allusion to, Charles Kingsley's book The Water-babies (1863; serial publication 1862–3).
2A person who is likened to such a creature, as being happy or adept in or on the water; especially a person, especially a child, who loves swimming.
Mid 19th century; earliest use found in Charles Kingsley (1819–1875), novelist, Church of England clergyman, and controversialist.
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