In this Adventure we are investigating the fiery origins of the word bureau.
A bureau [ˈbjʊɹ.əʊ/ˈbjʊɹ.oʊ] is:
- An administrative unit of government
- An organization or office for collecting or providing information or news.
- A desk, usually with a cover and compartments (mainly UK)
- A chest of drawers for clothes (mainly USA)
It comes from French bureau [by.ʁo] (desk, office, ticket office, office staff), from Old French burel (frieze [coarse woolen cloth], garment made of frieze) from Late Latin burra (a small cow with a red muzzle; a shaggy garment), from burrus (red, reddish-brown), from Ancient πυρρός [pyr̥.r̥ós] (flame-coloured, redheaded) from πῦρ [pŷːr] (fire, lighning, fever), from PIE *péh₂wr̥ (fire) [source].
How did we get from coarse fabric to a desk to an office? Well, back in the 14th century the French word bureau meant a carpet on which one did one’s accounts, probably made of coarse fabric. Later a table for doing accounts, then a place where you do your accounts, and by the 16th century it meant an establishment open to the public where a service of collective interest is undertaken [source].
The word burel (a coarse woolen cloth) also exists in English and was borrowed from Old French [source], and the old word borrel (a mean, ignorant or unlearned fellow) probably comes from the same roots [source].
The English prefix pyro- (fire, heat, fever), as in pyromancy (divination by fire), pyrometer (a thermometer designed to measure high temperatures) and pyroclast (solid matter ejected into the air by an active volcano) comes from the same PIE root [source], as do such words as fire, pyre and purge [source].
Here’s a video I made of this information:
Video made with Doodly [afflilate link].
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