digs

The word digs means place of abode or lodging, as in “he has moved into new digs.” But why digs?

The word was originally diggings, dating to the first half of the 19th century. The word is glossed in the 1834 Dictionary of American English. And there is this from Joseph C. Neal’s 1838 Charcoal Sketches:

I reckon it’s about time we should go to our diggings.

And from Dickens’s 1844 The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit:

She won’t be taken with a cold chill when she realises what is being done in these diggings?

The clipped form, digs, makes its appearance by the end of the century. From the 11 May 1893 issue of Stage:

“Being in the know” regarding the best “digs” can only be attained by experience.

But why diggings? It could be a reference to burrow. Or it could be an extension of miner’s use to mean a place of excavation, and by extension the place where the miner lives and works. Use of diggings to mean a place of excavation dates to the 16th century. From John Leland’s 1538 The Itinerary:

On the South side of Welleden...ys a goodly quarre of Stone, wher appere great Diggyns.

(Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition; Historical Dictionary of American Slang)

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