Archive for the Category: Latin

Gendarmes et policiers

Yesterday there was some discussion of the police at the French Conversation Group – one of the members is a former policeman. We use the word policier, but later I remembered that another French word for policeman is gendarme, and it suddenly dawned on me that gendarme probably comes from gens d’armes (armed man). I […]

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Baguette de tambour

Yesterday I discovered that in French a drumstick is a baguette de tambour, which conjured up images of French drummers playing their drums with long loaves of bread. The word baguette comes from the Italian word bacchetta (little rod), a diminutive of bacchio (rod), from the Latin baculum (stick, staff). As well as meaning a […]

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Parades

Last weekend I saw a couple of parades – a small and rather damp one in Bangor on Saturday that was part of the Bangor Carnival – and a rather bigger and more elaborate one on Sunday in Manchester that was part of the Manchester Day celebrations. This got me wondering about the origins of […]

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Panache, pegs and pinafores

One thing we discussed last night at the French Conversation Group was whether panache means the same thing in French as it does in English. According to the OED, panache [/pəˈnaʃ/ (UK) /pəˈnæʃ/ (USA)] comes from the Middle French pennache, which originally meant a tuft or plume of feathers, and by the late 19th century […]

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Pozo

Last night I learnt a song, En el pozo María Luisa (In the Maria Lusia mine), from a Spanish friend. This song, which is also known as Nel Pozu Maria Luisa or Santa Bárbara Bendita, comes from Asturias in north west Spain and is usually sung in Asturian, Spanish or a mixture of the two. […]

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Today and tomorrow

Yesterday a friend asked me about the origins of the words today and tomorrow, and whether the to- part of them was orginally the. You sometimes come across expressions like ‘on the morrow’, and words appear with hypens in older texts: to-day and to-morrow. According to the OED, today comes from the Old English tó […]

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Sporange

Sproange /spɒˈrændʒ/ is another name for the sporangium /spɒˈrændʒɪəm/ of a plant, which the OED defines as “a receptacle containing spores; a spore-case or capsule.” Sporange comes via Latin from the Greek σπορά spore + ἀγγεῖον (vessel). Sporange is also the only English word that rhymes with orange, a factoid I discovered on Lexiophiles, which […]

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Word skipping to Venus

I was asked today about the origins of the word worship. The person who asked was told by a highly-educated minister that “worship” is derived from an old English word, “word-skip”. Supposedly, “word-skip” means “word shaper” or “shaper of words”. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary: worship comes from the Old English worðscip, wurðscip (Anglian), […]

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Purses and sporrans

The word purse has an interesting history, I discovered today. It comes from the Old English word purs, from the Late Latin word bursa, which had a number of meanings of the centuries, including skin or leather; (money) bag; scrotum; exchange; and scholarship, allowance, and comes from the Greek word βύρσα (hide, leather). bursa is […]

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Shaking paillasses

In French une paillasse /pajas/ is a straw mattress, draining board or laboratory bench and un paillasse is a clown. The former is a combination of paille (straw) plus the suffix -asse. Paille comes from the Latin palea, from the Ancient Greek πάλλω (pallo = to shake) because you have to shake the straw to […]

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