Etymology of the Day: Galoshes

If it’s raining outside, you might want to put on your “log-feet”—er, galoshes. Good thing we don’t look to etymology for fashion tips.

patten
The patten, ancestor of the galosh? At least you wouldn’t get dog poo on your shoes. (My Learning)

Galoshes

English put on the word galosh—which we usually use as galoshes, because footwear comes in pairs—in the late 14th century. Back then, galoshes named a variety of boots and shoes, though especially a kind of wooden shoe strapped onto the foot with leather thongs or the like. By the mid-1800s, the word was slipping into its modern sense, a waterproof overshoe, usually made of rubber. Today in the US, galoshes tend to refer rubber to rain boots. 

How’d we go from wood to rubber? Let’s just we’ve come a long way in our shoe technology. Over the centuries, galoshes could refer to pattens. These were a kind of outdoor footwear, worn over one’s regular shoes, with a wooden platform (clog) or metal ring that elevated the stepper over mud—and dung. Also worn over shoes and protecting the shoe from the elements, galoshes provide a similar, though less ridiculous looking, function. 

The English galosh is from the French galoche, whose origin has two main theories. The first traces galosh to the Late Latin galliculua, short for gallicula solea, “Gallic shoe,” a type of footwear associated with the Gauls and perceived as rustic.

The other theory roots galosh in the Vulgar Latin *galopia, borrowed from the Greek kalopous (κᾱλόπους), literally “log-foot.” The word joins kalon (κᾶλον, a word used of logs or firewood) and pous (πούς, meaning and related to our word “foot”).

Etymologyever the trendsetter.

m ∫ r ∫

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2 thoughts on “Etymology of the Day: Galoshes

    1. Ah, yes! That’s perfect, isn’t it? Somewhat unrelated, but The OED, in its entry for ‘galosh’, notes that for some time the word spelled ‘galoshoe’ (inter al.) on the similar of its sound (and sense, of course) to ‘shoe’.

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