A student at Cambridge who has “declared” for Law or Physic, and wears a full-sleeve gown. The word is a corruption of the Greek Heri-sophos (more than a Soph or common second-year student).
The tale goes that at the destruction of the monasteries, in the reign of Henry VIII., certain students waited to see how matters would turn out before they committed themselves by taking a clerical degree, and that these men were thence called Sophistæ Henriciani, or “Henry Sophisters.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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