Attercop / Lob / Cob / Spider

In The Hobbit, Bilbo uses the words attercop, lazy lob, crazy cob, and old tomnodd as insults he’s attacked by giant spiders in Mirkwood. I guessed that they are alternative names for spiders, but I thought I’d check.

Attercop is a word for spider from the Old English átorcoppe, from átor/attor (poison) and coppe, from cop (top, summit, round head), or copp (cup, vessel). It is apparently still used in North Yorkshire, though is considered old fashioned. It can also mean a peevish or ill-natured person. Possibly related words include the Norwegian edderkopp(er) (spider) and the Danish edderkop(per).

Lob is another extinct word for spider from the Old English lobbe/loppe, of unknown origin.

Cob is another extinct word for spider that features in cobweb, and is probably cognate with the Flemish cobbe/coppe (spider) and Westphalian cobbe (spider).

I can’t find any information about tomnodd. Do you know where it might come from?

Other Old English words for spider include gangewifre (‘a weaver as he goes’) spíðra, wæfergange, gongelwæfre and spigt.

Source: OED, Word Wide Words, Wiktionary, Old English Tranlsator

This entry was posted in Danish, English, Etymology, Language, Norwegian, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Attercop

  1. David Eger says:

    That also explains the Welsh term (probably one of many) for spider, pryf copyn. I had wondered about cobweb before, but never made the connection.

  2. Roger Bowden says:

    Tomnoddy is an old English usage meaning sleepy head,fool, lazy or slow. Incidently a dialect word for a snail is hodmedod.

  3. Yenlit says:

    “Lob is another extinct word for spider from the Old English lobbe/loppe, of unknown origin.”

    The etymology dictionary says that ‘lobster’ (Old English loppestre) had been influenced by Old English loppe “spider” a variant of lobbe. East Frisian has lobbe (hanging lump of flesh); Dutch lob (hanging lip, ruffle, hanging sleeve) and Icelandic lyppa (wool drawn into a long hank before being spun) all of which have the semantic quality of ‘web’, ‘spinning’, ‘hanging’ etc.

    Old English loppe as well as meaning ‘spider’ could mean ‘flea’ and also ‘silk-worm’.

  4. Kevin says:

    The former Chief Constable of the North Wales Police was satirically (?) awarded the bardic name Pryf Cop(yn), i.e. “spider” — from pryf=bug + cop(yn) (spider) — in a play on the words prif+cop = chief+cop, i.e. top policeman (though, strictly speaking, mutation rules should make that prifgop…)

  5. BG says:

    Tolkien also uses “lob” in the name Shelob (literally ‘female spider’) in LotR.

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