(2 syl.) A peevish, sickly child. The notion used to be that the fairies took a healthy child, and left in its place one of their starveling elves which never did kindly
Oh, that it could be proved That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged In cradle-clothes our children as they lay, And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet! Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.
Shakespeare: 1 Henry IV., i. 1.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894