Gangsters have their molls, or female consorts. But where does the term moll come from?

Moll is a hypocoristic form of the name Mary. It’s more familiar to us today in the form Molly. Since the early 17th century the name Moll has been used as a general term for a woman, especially a prostitute. From Thomas Middleton’s 1604 The Ant and the Nightingale:

None of these common Molls neyther, but discontented and vnfortunate Gentlewomen.

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