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early 13c., from Old French figue (12c.), from Old Provençal figa, from Vulgar Latin *fica, from Latin ficus "fig tree, fig," from a pre-Indo-European Mediterranean language, possibly a Semitic one (cf. Phoenician pagh "half-ripe fig"). A reborrowing of a word that had been taken directly from Latin as Old English fic.
The insulting sense of the word in Shakespeare, etc. (A fig for ...) is 1570s, in part from fig as "small, valueless thing," but also from Greek and Italian use of their versions of the word as slang for "vulva," apparently because of how a ripe fig looks when split open [Rawson, Weekley]. Giving the fig (French faire la figue, Spanish dar la higa) was an indecent gesture of ancient provenance, made by putting the thumb between two fingers or into the mouth, with the intended effect of the modern gesture of "flipping the bird" (see bird (n.3)). See sycophant. Use of fig leaf in figurative sense of "flimsy disguise" (1550s) is from Gen. iii:7.
The amount of money won or lost by a gamblerRelated Terms
[1990s+ Gambling; fr figure]
First mentioned in Gen. 3:7. The fig-tree is mentioned (Deut. 8:8) as one of the valuable products of Palestine. It was a sign of peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4; Zech. 3:10). Figs were used medicinally (2 Kings 20:7), and pressed together and formed into "cakes" as articles of diet (1 Sam. 30:12; Jer. 24:2). Our Lord's cursing the fig-tree near Bethany (Mark 11:13) has occasioned much perplexity from the circumstance, as mentioned by the evangelist, that "the time of figs was not yet." The explanation of the words, however, lies in the simple fact that the fruit of the fig-tree appears before the leaves, and hence that if the tree produced leaves it ought also to have had fruit. It ought to have had fruit if it had been true to its "pretensions," in showing its leaves at this particular season. "This tree, so to speak, vaunted itself to be in advance of all the other trees, challenged the passer-by that he should come and refresh himself with its fruit. Yet when the Lord accepted its challenge and drew near, it proved to be but as the others, without fruit as they; for indeed, as the evangelist observes, the time of figs had not yet arrived. Its fault, if one may use the word, lay in its pretensions, in its making a show to run before the rest when it did not so indeed" (Trench, Miracles). The fig-tree of Palestine (Ficus carica) produces two and sometimes three crops of figs in a year, (1) the bikkurah, or "early-ripe fig" (Micah 7:1; Isa. 28:4; Hos. 9:10, R.V.), which is ripe about the end of June, dropping off as soon as it is ripe (Nah. 3:12); (2) the kermus, or "summer fig," then begins to be formed, and is ripe about August; and (3) the pag (plural "green figs," Cant. 2:13; Gr. olynthos, Rev. 6:13, "the untimely fig"), or "winter fig," which ripens in sheltered spots in spring.