Adventures in Etymology – Robust

In this adventure we’re untangling the ruddy roots of the word robust.

Here be trees!

Robust means:

  • Strong and healthy (of people or animals)
  • Strong and unlikely to break or fail (of objects or systems)

It comes from Latin rōbustus (oak, oaken, hard, firm, solid), from rōbur (an oak tree, hardness, strength, stronghold), from rōbus (red [esp. oxen]), from Proto-Italic *rouβos (red, ruddy, redheaded), from PIE *h₁rewdʰ- (red) [source].

Words from the same roots include red, rowan, ruby, ruddy and rust in English, rouge (red) in French, and rubor (blusing, blush, embarrassment, shame) and roble (oak, strong object/person, strength) in Spanish [source].

IMG_9879 Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa)
Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa)

The name Rufus also comes from the same roots, as does the English word rufous, which refers to a reddish brown colour, like rust. It’s mainly found in the name of birds, such as the rufous owl (Ninox rufa, a.k.a. rufous boobook), and the rufous-capped antshrike (Thamnophilus ruficapillus) [source].

Rufous-capped Antshrike - Salta - Argentina_CD5A5846
Rufous-capped antshrike (Thamnophilus ruficapillus)

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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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