Adventures in Etymology – Wood

Today we’re trying to see the wood for the trees by looking at the origins of the word wood.

Here be trees!

Wood [wʊd] is:

  • The substance making up the central part of the trunk and branches of a tree. Used as a material for construction, to manufacture various items, etc. or as fuel.
  • A forested or wooded area.

It comes from the Middle English wode [ˈwoːd(ə)] (wood), from the Old English wudu [ˈwu.du] (wood, forest, woods, tree), from the Proto-West-Germanic *widu (forest, tree, wood), from the Proto-Germanic *widuz [ˈwi.ðuz] (wood), from the PIE *h₁weydʰh₁ (wood, wilderness) [source].

Words from the same PIE root include ved (wood, firewood) in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian, gwŷdd [ɡwɨːð] (trees) in Welsh, fiodh [fʲɪ] (wood, timber) in Irish, and vidus (middle, centre) in Latvian [source].

How did a word meaning wood come to mean middle or centre in Latvian? Well, apparently the areas between villages were mainly forested in the past, and the meaning shifted from forest to area (between villages) to middle [source].

Here’s a video I made of this information:

Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].

I also write about words, etymology, and other language-related topics, on the Omniglot Blog, and I explore etymological connections between Celtic languages on the Celtiadur.

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