Adventures in Etymology 25 – Yarn

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



  • 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.


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.

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