Cassidese Glossary – Bailiwick

For some time now, some of my on-line friends have advised me to provide a version of CassidySlangScam without the invective aimed at Cassidy and his supporters. In response to that advice, I am working on providing a glossary of the terms in Cassidy’s ludicrous book How The Irish Invented Slang with a short, simple and business-like explanation of why Cassidy’s version is wrong.

Cassidy’s claims in relation to this word are bizarre and obviously incorrect.

His original claim was that bailiwick came from the ‘Irish’ baile aíoch, (hospitable home). This is still found on the CounterPunch website: ‘From his bailiwick (baile aíoch, hospitable home, friendly locale) on New York City’s Bowery, Big Tim Sullivan …’

This claim was dropped in the book in favour of this:

Bailiwick, n., a district of a bailiff; fig. a local area of personal influence.

Báille vicus (pron. bál’ǝ wicus; Irish/Gaelic-Latin compound), bailiff town, bailiff district.


Báille (pron. bál’ ǝ), n., a magistrate, a “baillie”, or bailiff. Vicus (Latin; pron. vicus, wicus), a town, a district. The English suffix wick is derived from Latin vicus. “Bàillidh, a magistrate, balie; Scottish bailzie English bailiff, French bailli.” (MacBain’s Gaelic Etymological Dictionary, 1896 [1982].)

He seems to be claiming here that the words for a bailiff in French, English and Scots all derive from Gaelic. In fact, bailiff derives from Latin bajulus via Old French bailli, from whence it spread into Irish, Scots Gaelic, Scots and English. The Irish-Latin compound word báille-vicus is completely imaginary.

The facts are given by Etymonline here (

bailiwick (n.)

“district of a bailiff, jurisdiction of a royal officer or under-sheriff,” mid-15c., contraction of baillifwik, from bailiff (q.v.) + Middle English wik, from Old English wic “village” (see wick (n.2)). Figurative sense of “one’s natural or proper sphere” recorded by 1843.

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