The electricians have been rewiring my new house this week and finished today, so I thought it would be interesting to looking the etymology of the word wire.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, wire comes from the Old English word wir (metal drawn out into a thread), which is related to the Old Norse word viravirka (filigree work), the Swedish word vira (to twist), and the Old High German word wiara (fine gold work).
Going further back we find that the Proto-Indo-European root of wire and wir is *wei- (to turn, twist, plait). This is also the root of the Old Irish word fiar (bent, crooked – cam in Modern Irish); the Welsh word gwyr (bent, crooked); and the Latin viere (to bend, twist).
The Proto-Indo-European Etymology dictionary gives the PIE root of wire as *chislom.
There are quite a few idiomatic expressions involving wire, including:
- the wire – another for the telephone, and the name of a TV series
- down the wire – right up to the last moment
- get in under the wire – to accomplish something with little time to spare
- get one’s wires crossed – to misunderstand
- pull wires – to exert influence behind the scenes using personal connections, etc – also ‘pull strings’
- wire in – to set about (something, especially food) with enthusiasm (not one I’ve come across before)
Does wire feature in equivalents of these expressions in other languages, or in other idioms?