A lackey is a manservant, in its original meaning (attested 1529), which derived from Medieval French laquais "foot soldier, footman, servant." The modern connotation of "servile follower" appeared later, in 1588.
In the 20th century rhetoric of some Communist groups, it was used as a derogative word in phrases such as "lackey of Capitalism" or "lackey of the bourgeoisie". What is implied is that the person to which the term is applied, while not himself a member of the bourgeoisie or not deriving high benefits from Capitalism, is still subservient to their goals. Such insults are, in particular, applied to leaders of left-wing parties that seek accommodations with the current economic or social system, or to any leader suspect of doing so.
The term was so over-used that it developed ironic overtones by the end of the century.
Lackey is also a surname, spelled variously as Lackey, Lecky, Lakie, and Leckie, believed to have originally meant "one who lives at the foot of the stony hills." It appears to be related to a Gaelic word for stone, leac. There is some question over whether it is a coincidence that this word appears in other languages, or whether these are secondary meanings resulting from a political action taken by a person of that name. Since Lackey is said to be a alias affiliated with Clan MacGregor, there may be something to this supposition.
Last updated: 05-20-2005 09:28:45