Adventures in Etymology – Extravagant

In this adventure we’re wondering about the wandering origins of the word extravagant.

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion), Kyoto, Japan

Extravagant means:

  • spending much more than is necessary or wise; wasteful
  • excessively high
  • exceeding the bounds of reason, as actions, demands, opinions, or passions
  • going beyond what is deserved or justifiable

It used to mean wandering beyond bounds [source], and comes from Middle English extravagaunt (rambling, irrelevant, extraordinary, unsual), from Middle French extravagant (extravagant), from Medieval Latin extravagans, from extravagor (to wander beyond), from extra- (beyond) and vagor (to wander, stray) [source].

Words from the same roots include vagabond, vagrant and probably vague in English, vague (vague, vagueness) in French, vaag (vague, hazy, odd, weird) in Dutch, and vago (wanderer, vagabond, slacker) in Spanish [source].

Other English words from the same roots include divagate (to wander about, stray from a suject or theme) [source], and evagate (to wander), which come from Latin roots meaning “to wander away from” and “to wander out of” [source].

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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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