Wind eyes and eye doors

Earlier this year I decided that after many years of renting rooms, flats or houses it was time to buy my own place. After viewing quite a few houses and flats, I chose one at the beginning of May and last week I finally picked up the keys, after months of going back and forth between estate agents, solicitors, financial advisers and banks. Friends had told me of their nightmarish house-buying experiences, so I had an idea of what to expect, and while it has taken quite a long time, it all went more or less smoothly.

Some of the vocabulary used in the house-buying process includes:

  • Property – a house, flat or other dwelling
  • Viewing – to view or have a look at a property you’re thinking about buying or renting
  • Offer – a price offered by the buyer to the seller, usually via an estate agent. This is often lower than the asking price and several offers might be made before one is accepted.
  • Purchase a property – you can say you’re buying a house, but the preferred ‘official’ term is purchase a property
  • Conveyancing – the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another – this is normally what your solicitor does, though it is possible to do it yourself.
  • Searches – checks normally carried out by your solicitor on things like planning restrictions and permissions for the property you’re purchasing.
  • Gazumping – when a seller decides to reject a buyer’s offer, after initially accepting it, in favour of a higher one from someone else.
  • Exchange – when contracts for the buyer or purchaser and the seller or vendor are exchanged. Up to this point either party can withdraw from the transaction.
  • Completion – when the conveyance process is completed – normally a week or so after exchange, though in my case exchange and completion happened on the same day.

Before I move into the house next month I’m having some work done, including rewiring, replacement of windows and doors, and the installation of a new bathroom. The windows and doors man came today to measure the windows and doors that will be replaced. One word he used, reveal, mystified me at first, but I now know it is the outer side of a window or door frame or the jamb. The word jamb comes from the Late Latin gamba (leg), via the Old French jambe (pier, side post of a door).

The word window comes from the Old Norse vindauga (“wind eye”), which replaced the Old English words eagþyrl (eye-hole) and eagduru (eye-door). The word fenester, from the Latin fenestra, was also used in English until the mid 16th century.

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This entry was posted in English, Etymology, Language, Latin, Old Norse, Words and phrases.

13 Responses to Wind eyes and eye doors

  1. Qcumber says:

    I have the impression Japanese _mado_ “window” comes from _ma_ a doublet of _me_ “eye” and _to_ “door”.
    The mutation of /e/ into /a/ in compounds is also evidenced in a few other terms such as _kaze_ “wind” + kuruma “wheel” > kazaguruma “mill”.
    Your opinion?

  2. gk says:

    “Gamba” is still used in Spanish (at least in Argentina) as slang for “leg”.

  3. TJ says:

    Isn’t it also Das Fenster in German?

    And congrats for the new home!
    Here, when someone gets a home we usually congratulate him by saying “Bait(n) Mabrook” or “Manzilin Imbaarak” [Both mean blessed house]. Of course this is in the dialect here. More or less the standard version would be including “Mabrook” [Blessed and also congratulations].

  4. Tommy says:

    I have a real estate agent license in the state in the US where I grew up and studied, but I have never heard “gazumping”. It must be a British term.

    One of the industry terms that everyone jokes about is “window treatment”, which is just a fancy way of saying curtains or drapes. I personally really like the concept of conveyance, or the question of what exactly transfers with the house/land/purchased item.

    It is really interesting field, tied up with big questions of property ownership, art and architecture, etc. You can learn a lot of words and ideas to color the other aspects of your life.

  5. Arakun says:

    I find it fascinating that Danish and Norwegian uses “vindue” and “vindu”, from Old Norse “vindauga”, while Swedish uses “fönster” from Latin “fenestra” via Middle Low German “vinster”. :)

  6. Yenlit says:

    I like the word ‘defenestration’ – the word in English meaning: ‘the act of throwing someone out of a window’ and there’s also ‘autodefenestration’ which I imagine is performing the act on oneself.

  7. Yenlit says:

    Arakun – Wiktionary states that ‘fönster’ replaced the Old Swedish original word for window ‘vindögha’ agreeing with the other Scandinavian languages: Faeroese – ‘vindeyga’, Old Norse – ‘vindauga’ etc. but Icelandic has ‘gluggi’? It doesnt say why or when Swedes switched to using fönster but maybe the two words ran side by side for a time with fönster having more of a sense of cachet?

  8. Yenlit says:

    Is the old Swedish ‘vindögha’ still used or understood in modern Swedish?

  9. Arakun says:

    @Yenlit: No it’s not used anymore and I don’t think most people would understand it. Even if they are fluent in English and have some knowledge of Danish or Norwegian I don’t think they’ll make that connection either.

  10. Yenlit says:

    You would’ve assumed Icelandic would remain close to Old Norse but they have ‘gluggi’ for window? Does that make any sense in Swedish?

  11. Arakun says:

    @Yenlit: Swedish has “glugg” (‘hole’) that can be used for a small window. It’s most common use nowadays to describe a gap between the teeth (search for “glugg” on Google and you’ll get pictures of peoples’ teeth). Apparently it comes from the Old Norse verb “glóa” (‘glow’), i.e. something that lets light through.

    Another interesting fact is that “glo” which used to mean ‘glow’ in Swedish now usually means ‘look’, ‘stare’ or ‘glare’. It seems to be the same in Danish and Norwegian.

    Oh, and I was the one who added the etymology to the Wiktionary entry. ;) I don’t know when the change took place.

  12. Yenlit says:

    Arakun – The English words probably related are: ‘glower’ (to stare hard and angrily) ‘gloat’, ‘gloom’ and ‘glum’. But I can’t think of any English words connected with the sense of being a ‘hole’ or ‘gap’ as you mentioned in Swedish?
    I did find an old obsolete word I’d never heard of before while flicking through the dictionary related with ‘glo': ‘glede’ a glowing coal.

  13. Kevin says:

    Arakun: so that Swedish warmed wine known as “glögg” is presumably also connected to the old glowing word (cf. German “Glühwein”)? Something to mull over, anyway.