One who is strongly partial to one's own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
[French, excessively religious person, religiously intolerant person, from Old French, Norman person, excessively religious person, of unknown origin.]
Word History: The ultimate origin of the word bigot is unknown. When bigot first appears in Old French, it is as an insulting term for a Norman. A colorful story is often told about the origin of the term with Rollo, the pagan Viking conqueror who received Normandy as a fief from Charles III of France in 911. Rollo converted to Christianity for the occasion, but it is said that he refused to complete his oath of fealty to the king by kissing the king's feet and said Ne se bi got, "Never, by God!" in a mishmash of Old French and a Germanic language. This bi got then became a term of abuse for the Normans. This story is certainly false, but some scholars have proposed that Old French bigot did indeed originate as a reference to be Gode!—the Old and early Middle English equivalent of Modern English by God!, perhaps as a phrase that some Normans picked up in their English possessions in England and then used back in France. Later, in the 1400s, the French word bigot appears as a term of abuse for a person who is excessively religious. It is not clear, however, that this word bigot, "excessively religious person," is in fact the direct descendant of the Old French slur that was applied to the Normans. Rather, this bigot may come directly from Middle English bi God, "by God," or an equivalent phrase in one of the Germanic relatives of English such as German bei Gott or Dutch bij God. But even this is uncertain. In any case, English borrowed bigot from French with the sense "religious hypocrite" in the early 17th century. In English, the term also came to be applied to persons who hold stubbornly to any system of beliefs, and by extension, persons who are intolerant of those that differ from them in any way.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The American Heritage Dictionary Blog
Check out our blog, updated regularly, for new words and revised definitions, interesting images from the 5th edition, discussions of usage, and more.