Adventures in Etymology 26 – Iron

Today we’re getting elemental and delving into the origins of the word iron [ˈaɪ.ən/ˈaɪ.ɚn].

iron fence

Definition:

  • an element which usually takes the form of a hard, dark-grey metal that can be used to make steel.
  • an electrical device with a flat metal base that heats up and is used to remove creases from clothes.

[source]

It comes from the Middle English word iren [ˈiːrən] (iron), from the Old English īsern [ˈiː.sern] (iron), from the Proto-West-Germanic *īsarn (iron) from the Proto-Germanic **īsarną [ˈiː.sɑr.nɑ̃] (iron), from the Proto-Celtic *īsarnom (iron), probably from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁ēsh₂r̥no- (bloody, red), from *h₁ésh₂r̥ (flowing blood) [source].

Words for iron in Germanic and Celtic languages come from the same Proto-Celtic root, including ijzer [ˈɛi̯zər] in Dutch, Eisen [ˈʔaɪ̯zn̩] in German, haearn [ˈhai.arn] in Welsh and iarann [ˈiəɾˠən̪ˠ] in Irish [source].

Incidentally, the word irony is not related to iron at all. Instead it comes from the Middle French ironie (irony), from the Latin īrōnīa (irony), from the Ancient Greek εἰρωνεία [eː.rɔː.něː.a] (irony, pretext), from εἴρων (one who feigns ignorance) [source].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog and a recent post was about Iron Ferrets.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Adventures in Etymology 25 – Yarn

Today we’re spinning a yarn and telling a tale about the origins of the word yarn [jɑːn/jɑɹn].

Yarn

Definition:

  • a continuous strand of twisted threads of natural or synthetic fibers, such as wool or nylon, used in weaving or knitting.
  • A long, often elaborate narrative of real or fictitious adventures; an entertaining tale.

[source]

It comes from the Middle English word yarn(e) / ȝern [ˈjarn/ˈjɛrn] (yarn, fibre used to weave or knit), from the Old English word ġearn [jæ͜ɑr(ˠ)n] (yarn), from the Proto-Germanic *garną (yarn) from *garnō (gut, intestine), from the Proto-Indo-European *ǵʰorn-/ǵʰer- (gut, intestine) [source].

The English words hernia, cord and chord come from the same PIE root: hernia via the Latin hernia (protruded viscus, hernia) [source], and c(h)ord via the Old French corde (rope), from Latin chorda [ˈkʰor.da] (tripe, intestine, string of a musical instrument), from the Ancient Greek χορδά [kʰor.dɛ̌ː] (khordá – guts, intestines, gut string(s) of a musical instrument such as a lyre) [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Episode 46 – Surnames

The word surname, as in a family name, comes from the Late Latin supernōmen/suprānōmen (surname), from super- (over, above, beyond) and nōmen (name) [source].

The most common surnames in England are: Smith, Jones, Taylor, Brown, Williams, Wilson, Johnson, Davies, Robinson and Wright [source].

Types of surname:

  • Occupational; Smith, Taylor, Wright
  • Patronimics; Jones, Williams, Wilson, Johnson, Davies, Robinson
  • Based on appearance: Brown

Smith is the most common surname in the English-speaking world, as are equivalents in many other languages, including Schmidt in German, Ferraro / Ferrari in Italian, Herrero in Spanish, Kovač in Serbian, Croatian, Slovak and Slovenian, and Mac Gabhann (McGowan) in Irish. It comes from the Old English word smitan (to smite, strike).

A smith is someone who works with metal, and has been used as an occupational surname since Anglo-Saxon times. There are various kinds of smith, and their names are or were used as surnames, including Blacksmith (works mainly with iron); Brownsmith and Redsmith (work with copper); Goldsmith (works mainly with gold); Shoesmith (makes horseshoes); Sixsmith (makes scythes and sickles – a version of Scythesmith or Sicklesmith), and Whitesmith (works with tin) [source].

The surname Taylor came to Britian with the Normans, and was first used in 1182. It comes from the Old French word tailleur (cutter). It is also common in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA [source].

The surname Wright comes from the Old English word wryhta/wyrhta (worker, shaper of wood). It is also common in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. There are quite a few surname that include wright, such as: Arkwright (a maker of wooden chests), Boatwright (a maker of boats), Cartwright (a maker of carts), Plowright (a maker of ploughs), Wainwright (a maker of wagons) [source].

Other occupational surnames include: Faulkner / Falconer (falcon trainer), Fletcher (arrow maker), Hayward (hedge warden), Parker (keeper of the park) and Walker (a fuller of cloth) [source].

Jones is the most common surname is Wales, and is also common in England and the USA. It’s based on Welsh patronimics meaning “son of John”, such as Mab Ioan or ap Siôn. These were commonly used until the mid 16th century, when Welsh people started using surnames, and many Welsh names were Anglicised, as all official documents had to be in English. Davies and Williams have similar origins [source]. More on Welsh surnames.

The surname Brown was originally a nickname for someone with brown hair or clothing. It’s common in England, Scotland, Canada, Australia and the USA. It was first used in England in 1066 in the form of Brun [source].

Other colour-based surnames include Black (dark-haired, or short for blacksmith), White (possibly referred to pale complexioned Vikings), Green (one who lives by the village green or is from a place called Green), Blue (someone with blue eyes / blue clothes), Red (red haired, ruddy complexion), Orange (associated with the Dutch House of Orange) and Pink (nickname for a bright, chirpy person) [source].

Other sourses
https://www.behindthename.com/name/geoffrey
https://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/Ager
https://www.familyeducation.com/baby-names/name-meaning/ager


If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Adventures in Etymology 23 – Hedge

Today we are looking at the word hedge [hɛdʒ].

Hedges

Definition:

  • a row of bushes or small trees planted close together, especially when forming a fence or boundary

[source]

It comes from the Middle English word hegge [hɛd͡ʒ] (hedge, bush, shrub), from the Old English heċġ [hed͡ʒ] (fence), from the Proto-West-Germanic *haggju (hedge), from the Proto-Germanic *hagjō [ˈxɑɣ.jɔ] (hedge), from the PIE *kagʰyóm (enclosure, hedge) [source].

The English words quay (as in a stone wharf) and haw (as in hawthorn, and an old word hedge) come from the same root, as does the Welsh word cae [kaːɨ̯/kai̯] (field, pitch), the Cornish word ke (hedge, fence), and the Breton word kae (hedge) [source].

Other words from the same root include the French haie [ɛ] (hedge, obstacle, hurdle, fence), which was borrowed from Frankish, and words for hedge in Germanic languages, including Hecke [ˈhɛkʰə] in German and heg [ɦɛx] in Dutch [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

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Adventures in Etymology 22 – Fence

Today we’re looking at the word fence [fɛns], as my slate fence is being replaced with a wooden one, mainly to stop my neighbour’s dog from getting in my garden.

Fences

Definition:

  • a barrier enclosing or bordering a field, yard, etc, usually made of vertical posts connected with horizontal sections of sturdy material such as wood, metal or wire, used to prevent entrance, to confine, or to mark a boundary

[source]

It comes from the Middle English word fence/fens, from the Old French defens(e) (defence), from the Latin dēfensa [d̪ɛˈfɛnsɑ] (defense, protection), from dēfendō [d̪eːˈfɛn̪d̪oː] (to defend, guard, protect), from dē- (of, from) and *fendō (hit, thrust) [source].

The English word defend comes from the same root, as do related words in other European languages, such as défendre (to defend, forbid) in French and amdiffyn (to protect, defend) in Welsh [source].

The Old English word for fence was edor [ˈe.dor], which also meant enclosure, hedge, shelter, dwelling, house, protector or prince. This became edder, an now obsolete word that refers to flexible wood worked into the top of hedge stakes, to bind them together. [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Adventures in Etymology 21 – Circle

Today we are looking at the word circle [ˈsɜː.kəɫ / ˈsɝ.kəɫ].

Circles made with fire poi on Brighton beach

Definition:

  • A shape consisting of a curved line completely surrounding an area, every part of which is the same distance from the centre of the area.

[source]

It comes from the Middle English word circle, cercle, from the Old French cercle [ˈtser.klə] (circle), from the Latin circulus [ˈkɪɾkʊɫ̪ʊs̠] (circle, orbit, ring, hoop, necklace, chain, company, group), a diminutive of circus [ˈkɪɾkʊs̠] (orbit, circle, ring, racecourse, circus), from the Ancient Greek κίρκος [kír.kos] (type of hawk, or falcon, type of wolf, circle, ring, racecourse, circus), from the PIE *(s)ker- (to bend, turn) [source].

Some English words from the same root include: ring, rink, cross, crown, corona, curb, curtain, curve, crisp and crest [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

You can also listen to this podcast on: Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Podchaser, PlayerFM or podtail.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can make a donation via PayPal or Patreon, or contribute to Omniglot in other ways.

Blubrry podcast hosting

Adventures in Etymology 20 – Distract

Today we are looking at the word distract [dɪsˈtɹækt], that’s if I don’t get distracted, as often happens.

Distracted

Definition:

  • to draw away or divert, as the mind or attention
  • to disturb or trouble greatly in mind, beset
  • to provide a pleasant diversion for; amuse; entertain
  • to separate or divide by dissension or strife

[source]

It comes from the Latin word distractus (divided, scattered; sold), from the distrahō (I draw, pull, drag asunder), from dis- (asunder, apart, in two), and *trahō (I drag, pull), from the PIE *dʰregʰ- (to pull, draw, drag) [source].

From the same Latin root come such words as traire (to milk) in French, traer (to bring, fetch, attract, pull) in Spanish, trazer [tɾɐ.ˈzeɾ/tɾa.ˈze(ʁ)] (to bring) in Portuguese, and tractor, tract and traction in English [source].

From the same PIE root, via Proto-Germanic draganą [ˈdrɑ.ɣɑ.nɑ̃] (to draw, pull, carry) and the Old English dragan [ˈdrɑ.ɣɑn] (to draw, drag), we get the English words draw drag [source].

As I mentioned in this episode, I often get distracted. I even wrote a song about this, called Distraction – I was planning to write one about owls, but got distracted and wrote this one instead. Later I did write an owl-related song called The Little Green Owl.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

Adventures in Etymology 19 – Masks

Today we are looking at the word mask [mɑːsk/mæsk].

Me in a mask

Definition:

  • a covering for all or part of the face that protects, hides, or decorates the person wearing it
  • appearance or behaviour that hides the truth [source]

It comes from the Middle French word masque (a covering to hide or protect the face), from the Italian maschera [ˈmas.ke.ra] (mask, disguise), from the Medieval Latin masca (witch, hag, spectre, nightmare, mask), from the Proto-West Germanic *maskā (mesh), from the Proto-Germanic *maskwǭ (loop, knot, mesh, netting, mesh used as a filter, facemask). The English words mesh and mascara come from the same root [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

Adventures in Etymology 18 – Parnips

Today we are looking at the word parsnip [ˈpɑː.snɪp/ˈpɑɹ.snɪp].

Parsnips

Definition:

  • A plant (Pastinaca sativa) in the parsley family, native to Eurasia, cultivated for its long, white, edible, fleshy root.
  • The root of this plant.

It comes from the Middle English word passenep a version of the Old French word pasnaie, with influence from the Middle English word nepe [neːp] (turnip), from the Latin pastināca [pas.tiˈnaː.ka] (parsnip, carrot, stringray) from pastinum [ˈpas.ti.num] (two-pronged fork/dibble), which is of unknown orgin [source].

Words for parsnip are similiar in quite a few other languages, including pastinaca in Italian, pastinaak in Dutch and panais in French.

One exception is Spanish, in which parsnip is chirivía [t͡ʃi.ɾiˈβ̞i.a], from alcaravea [al.ka.ɾaˈβ̞e.a] (caraway), from the Arabic كَرَاوِيَا‎ (karāwiyā, caraway) [source].

This adventure was inspired by a friend who sent me a collection of ‘useful’ phrases from the Welsh course on Duolingo concerning Owen and his parsnips.

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.

Adventures in Etymology 17 – Balance

Today we are endeavouring to maintain a state of equilibrium by looking at the word balance [ˈbæləns].

The scales of justice

Definition:
– a state in which opposing forces harmonise; equilibrium.
– something of equal weight used to provide equilibrium; counterweight
– awareness of both viewpoints or matters; neutrality; rationality; objectivity.

It comes from the Middle English word balaunce [baˈlantsə] (a set of scales), from the Middle French balance (scales), from the Latin Latin *bilancia from the Latin *bilanx [ˈbɪɫ̪äŋks̠] ((of a balance) having two scales) from bi- (twice) and lanx [ɫ̪äŋks̠] (dish, plate, scalepan) [source].

In Latin the word for a pair of scales or balance was libra, which was also a unit of measure equal to twelve ounces or a pound (lb). This is the root of words for weight and currency in various languages, including livre (pound) in French, lira in Italian, and libra (pound) in Portuguese and Spanish [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly – an easy-to-use animated video creator [affiliate link].

I also write about etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog.