What is a stool pigeon? Does it refer the bird’s habit of defecating on statues? Does it have something to do with furniture?
Stool does not refer to the piece of furniture or to dung. It is a variant of stale, meaning decoy. It comes from the Anglo-Norman estale or estal, a decoy bird used to entice a hawk to fly into a net. The French word probably originally derives from the Germanic steall meaning a place or standing position, or in this case a stationary bird. The root is also the source of the modern stall. From the c.1440 Anglo-Latin lexicon Promptorium Parvulorum Sive Clericorum:
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Stale, of fowlynge or byrdys takynge, stacionaria.
(Stale, of fowling or birds taking, stacionaria.)
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton