How Well Do You Know English Slang?
1560s, "opponent of Anglican hierarchy," later applied opprobriously to "person in Church of England who seeks further reformation" (1570s), probably from purity. Largely historical from 19c. in literal sense. After c.1590s, applied to anyone deemed overly strict in matters of religion and morals.
What [William] Perkins, and the whole Puritan movement after him, sought was to replace the personal pride of birth and status with the professional's or craftsman's pride of doing one's best in one's particular calling. The good Christian society needs the best of kings, magistrates, and citizens. Perkins most emphasized the work ethic from Genesis: "In the swaete of thy browe shalt thou eate thy breade." [E. Digby Baltzell, "Puritan Boston and Quaker Philadelphia," 1979]
A group of radical English Protestants that arose in the late sixteenth century and became a major force in England during the seventeenth century. Puritans wanted to “purify” the Church of England by eliminating traces of its origins in the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, they urged a strict moral code and placed a high value on hard work (see work ethic). After the execution of King Charles I in 1649, they controlled the new government, the Commonwealth. Oliver Cromwell, who became leader of the Commonwealth, is the best-known Puritan.
Note: Many Puritans, persecuted in their homeland, came to America in the 1620s and 1630s, settling colonies that eventually became Massachusetts. (See Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony.)
Note: The words puritan and puritanical have come to suggest a zeal for keeping people from enjoying themselves.