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Pit

PIT (O. E. pytt, cognate with Du. put, Ger. Pfiitze, etc., all ultimately adaptations of Lat. puteus, well, formed from root pu-, to cleanse, whence purus, clean, pure), a term of wide application for a hole, cavity or excavation in the earth or other surface; thus it is applied to the excavations made in the ground for the purpose of extracting minerals, e.g. chalk, gravel or sand, or for carrying on some industry, e.g. tan-pit, saw-pit, or to the group of shafts which form a coal-mine. Roots and other vegetables can be stored in the winter in a pit, and the term is thus transformed to a heap of such vegetables covered with earth or straw. The word is also used of any hollow or depression in a surface, as in the body, the arm-pit, the pit of the stomach, or on the skin, as the scars left by small-pox or chicken-pox. As applied to a portion of a building or construction, the word first appears for an enclosure, often sunk in the ground, in which cock-fighting was carried on, a " cock-pit." It would seem a transference of this usage that gave the common name to that part of the auditorium of a theatre which is on the floor, the French parterre. In the United States a special usage is that of its application to that part of the floor space in an exchange where a particular branch of business is transacted; thus in the Chicago Board of Trade, transactions in the grain trade are carried on in what is known as the " Wheat Pit."

In Scottish legal history there was a baronial privilege which in Latin is termed furca el fossa, " fork (i.e. gallows) and pit "; here the term has usually been taken to refer to the drowning-pit, in which women criminals were put to death ; others take it to refer to an ordeal pit. There is a parallel phrase in M. Dutch, putte ends galghen ; here putte is the pit in which women were buried alive as a penalty.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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