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English, Scottish, Dutch, and German: metonymic occupational name for a herring fisher or for a seller of the fish, Middle English hering, Dutch haring, Middle High German hærinc. In some cases it may have been a nickname in the sense of a trifle, something of little value, a meaning which is found in medieval phrases and proverbial expressions such as ‘to like neither herring nor barrel’, i.e. not to like something at all.