PLUCK, to pull or pick off something, as flowers from a plant, feathers from a bird. The word in O. Eng. is pluccian or ploccian and is represented by numerous forms in Teutonic languages, cf. Ger. pfliicken, Du. plukken, Dan. plakke, etc. In sense and form a plausible identification has been found with Ital. piluccare, to pick grapes, hair, feathers, cf. Fr. eplucher, pick. These romanic words are to be referred to Lat. pilus, hair, which has also given " peruke " or " periwig " and " plush." Difficulties of phonology, history and chronology, however, seem to show that this close similarity is only a coincidence. " Pluck," in the sense of courage, was originally a slang word of the prize-ring, and Sir W. Scott (Journal, Sept. 4, 1827) speaks of the " want of that article blackguardly called pluck." In butcher's parlance the " pluck " of an animal is the heart, liver and lungs, probably so called from their being " plucked " or pulled out of the carcase immediately after slaughtering. The heart being the typical seat of courage, the transference is obvious. In university colloquial or slang use, " to pluck " is to refuse to pass a candidate on examination; the more usual colloquial word is now " to plough." At the granting of degrees at Oxford objection to a candidate could be taken for other reasons than failure at examination, and the person thus challenging drew the attention of the proctor in congregation by " plucking " a piece of black silk attached to the back of his gown.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)