Word Origin & History
O.E. hecg, originally any fence, living or artificial, from W.Gmc. *khagja (cf. M.Du. hegge, O.H.G. hegga, Ger. Hecke "hedge"), from PIE. *khagh- "to encompass, enclose" (cf. L. caulae "a sheepfold, enclosure," Gaul. caio "circumvallation," Welsh cae "fence, hedge"). Related to O.E. haga "enclosure,
hedge" (see haw
). Prefixed to any word, it "notes something mean, vile, of the lowest class" [Johnson], from contemptuous attributive sense of "plying one's trade under a hedge" (hedge-priest, hedge-lawyer, hedge-wench, etc.), a usage attested from c.1530. The verb sense of "dodge, evade" is first recorded 1598; that of "insure oneself against loss," as in a bet, is from 1672. Hedgehog is c.1450 (replacing O.E. igl), the second element an allusion to its pig-like snout. Hedgerow is O.E. heggeræw.