Adventures in Etymology – Fever

Last weekend I went to Aberystwyth to see a friend, which was nice, and also why I didn’t manage to record a new Adventure in Etymology. Unfortunately one souvenir I brought back was a dose of Corona virus. I felt quite feverish earlier this week, so today we’re uncovering the origins of the word fever.

Promenâd Aberystwyth Promenade
Promenâd Aberystwyth Promenade

A fever [ˈfiːvə / ˈfivɚ] is:

  • A higher than normal body temperature of a person (or, generally, a mammal), usually caused by disease.
  • Any of various diseases, such as scarlet fever
  • A state of excitement or anxiety.
  • A group of stingrays.

It comes from the Middle English fever(e) (fever), from the Old English fefer / fefor (fever), from the Latin febris (fever), from the Proto-Italic *feɣʷris (fever), from the Proto-Indo-European *dʰegʷʰris from *dʰegʷʰ- (to burn, warm, hot) [source].

Words from the same PIE root include day in English, and words for day in other Germanic languages, daigh (flame, fire, pain, pang) in Irish, and possibly defio [ˈdəɨ̯vjɔ] (to scorch, singe, blast, blight) in Welsh [source].

In Old English the word for fever was hriþ [r̥iθ], which comes from the Proto-Germanic *hriþiz (trembling, the shakes, the shivers, fever) from the PIE *kret- (to shake, quiver, tremble) [source].

Words from the same PIE root possibly include cryd [krɨːd / kriːd] (shivering, trembling, fever) in Welsh, and crith (a/to shake, quiver, tremble) in Irish [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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