Where Does the Phrase “Piggyback” Come From?


You’ve heard the phrase “piggyback” a million times, but have you ever wondered what it actually means? No? Just me?

Lucky for you, I’ve done some digging and found the historical origins of the phrase.


First of all, the phrase ‘piggyback’ has nothing to do with pigs. But that is a cool photo, right?

The truth is, ‘piggyback’ was originally pronounced ‘pick back’, and it traces back to the mid-16th century.

How was the phrase originally used?

Back then, people would often carry days or weeks worth of supplies on their back while traveling. This was called ‘pickbacking’.

The ‘pick‘ part means ‘to carry or to pitch’. ‘Back‘ refers to the load and the place it is carried on a person’s body. In other words, ‘pickback,’ literally means “carry a load on your back.”

How did pigs get involved?

This is where the story gets interesting. By the 18th century, “picka-back” was the most common form of the phrase. But it was confusing. The “back” part was obvious, but everyone had forgotten where “picka” came from.

So, people came up with a word that made more sense. So, ‘picka’ became ‘piggy’. While it didn’t make much sense, pigs aren’t great at hauling, it did stick. By the 20th century, we settled on the ‘piggyback’ spelling and the rest is history.


  1. I own a piggery and quite often observe pigs riding on each other for several minutes at a time. The one on top has two front legs and chest on top of pig on bottom. Bottom pig moves around and the top pig follows dancing on its two back legs. Initially thought it was precursor to sex but it’s not – there’s no “humping” action, merely having fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.