English acquired the word pickle in the fourteenth century, probably from Middle Low German pekel (ancestor of modern German pökel, ‘brine, pickle’). Its primary meaning seems to have been ‘brine for preserving food’, but it was also used from earliest times for a ‘relish for enlivening meat’ (‘Seven knave [male] children, chopped in a charger of chalk-white silver, with pickle and powder of precious spices,’ Morte Arthur, 1440). In American English it commonly denotes ‘pickled cucumber’. Its colloquial application to a ‘plight’ or ‘predicament’ dates from the sixteenth century, to a ‘mischievous child’ from the late eighteenth century.
Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.