are never praised, like novelists or bird watchers,
for their keenness of observation.
John Collier, Lady Godiva
A person who gets pleasure, especially sexual pleasure, from secretly watching others; a voyeur.
[After the legendary Peeping Tom of Coventry, England, who was the only person to see the naked Lady Godiva.]
Word History: In an age when we can speak of peeping Tom cameras or electronic peeping Toms we have indeed come far from the time of the legendary peeping Tom. Godgifu (fl. 1040-1080), Lady Godiva to us, pledged her legendary ride as a means of persuading her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia, to lower taxes. In the original version of the story she was observed by all the townspeople as she disrobed, but in a much later version of the story a tailor or butcher named Tom was the only person to observe her as she rode by, everyone else having shuttered their windows as they had been asked. Peeping Tom, first recorded around 1796, has become a term for a voyeur, not at all a pleasant fate for this legendary fellow