In John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar (1968), there is a slang term "shiggy," which refers to a transient woman who becomes a man's temporary romantic partner as a means to obtain shelter:

That would account for the development of the shiggy circuit, the fact that the world's big cities are alive with women who've never had a permanent home, but live out of a bag and sleep a night, a week, half a year wherever there's a man with an apartment to share.

I'm having trouble figuring out the origin of this term. Some of Brunner's invented slang has pretty clear etymology defined in-universe, e.g. "mucker" from "amok," but there's nothing within the book to suggest any words of similar sound or spelling that this term came from.

According to Urban Dictionary, "shiggy" is a term for obstacle-heavy off-trail terrain used by Hash House Harriers, but it's not clear if that term is as old as the novel, and that meaning doesn't really connect to the way Brunner uses it.

An old reference in Transactions of the Philological Society indicates that "shiggy" is an Irish term meaning "fairy", so maybe the ephemeral and fleeting nature of relationships with these women has led men to think of them as fairies. No real textual support for this, though.

Any ideas?

  • 1
    I had always assumed (without thinking much about it and with nothiung to back it up) that it's derived from shiska (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shiksa), since shiggies pretty much meets the stereotype of a shiska (only of course in-universe the connotations would have changed completely, but that would not be unusual). Mar 26, 2014 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


The word appears to be a contraction of the 13th Century Scottish word "Thig" or "Thiggie" (generally used in conjunction with the word Sorn)

Thig, v. Also: thigge, thige, thyg.
1. tr. To solicit (food, subsistence) by begging
2. The act or process of exacting free lodging

and the word "She".
Literally, a she-beggar.

The fact that John Brunner was a resident of Glasgow, Scotland would seem to lend strong credence to this idea. This word is still in semi-regular usage.

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    May 3, 2019 at 6:35

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