The word ‘quaint’ is so innocent today. But that is only because we use it as an adjective. Not many people think of using it as a noun. How, one would rightly ask in understandable astonishment, would you use ‘quaint’ as a noun? Clearly, used as an adjective, it means “Cunning, ingenious; elaborate, elegant”(Oxford English Dictionary Online). But looking a bit deeper, one will find an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary for ‘quaint’ the noun. It’s definition as a noun is “The female external genitals” (Oxford English Dictionary Online). To be fair, this meaning has become obsolete and rare after the 16th century. However, let us exmine the etymology to see how the noun meaning of the past, mentioned above, transformed into the innocent adjective meaning we use today.
The noun form, accord to the OED, was used “either punningly after CUNT n. or as a euphemistic substitution for that word”. “Cunt”, meaning “The female external genital organs” is identical to that of ‘quaint’ as a noun. How then did it come to mean “Cunning, ingenious; elaborate, elegant”? Though one could derive a humorous folk-etymology for this, having done it myself, it would serve us better to find the truth. Our current meaning in the adjective form cam be linked to the “Anglo-Norman cointe, cuente, cuinte, kointe, quaint, queinte, quint, quointe and Old French, Middle French cointe clever, astute, quick-witted, experienced, expert (11th cent.)… With use as noun compare earlier QUAINT n.1 (Oxford English Dictionary Online). Thus, it seems that ‘quaint’ the adjective and ‘quaint’ the noun were used independently and may not have had much contact with each other in terms of semantic, contextual use. However, given the attitudes (stemming probably from Biblical stories) toward women during the time this word was used in the these ways, that they were always conniving, always trying to do those thing that would make trouble for the men in their lives (from said Biblical stories) it is hardly out of the question that this is how, and maybe why, the noun form meant the female genitals and cunning, crafty.