Search: etymology of the day

Via Old French cerchier, search goes back to the Latin circare, literally “to go round.” The verb is formed from circus, source of and meaning circle.

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(Pixabay)

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“Torrential”: a cruelly ironic etymology

There’s only one way to describe the rain deluging Houston, Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey this week: torrential. Nearly thirty inches have already fallen over parts of the city as of Monday night, and 20 more inches are still expected.

The frequent co-occurrence of these two words, torrential and rain, is called collocation by linguists, and we’ve seen it before in my post on rampant, which is so often coupled with corruption. We’re also seeing collocation at work in Houston’s catastrophic flooding.

But how about the word torrential itself? Where does it come from?

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Torrential is like a torrent, originally said of streams. (Pixabay)

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Safari: Etymology of the day

Safari was borrowed in the 1850s from the Swahili safari, meaning “journey” or “expedition,” in turn from the Arabic safar, “journey” or “tour.” 

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(Pixabay)

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The etymological elements of “arsenic”

Researchers concluded this week that nearly 60 million people in Pakistan are at risk of drinking water with “alarmingly high” levels of arsenic, the contamination leaching into groundwater from rock.

The poisonous qualities of arsenic, a semi-metal, and its various compounds have long been known to (and sometimes disregarded by) humans—as has the word. As we work to ensure clean water for Pakistan, let’s look into the etymology of arsenic.

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Orpiment, the historic arsenic, glittering on quartz. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Rucksack: Etymology of the day

First recorded in the 1850s, a rucksack is a “backpack”—literally. The word is borrowed from German, with the ruck from a regional word for back, Rücken, related to ridge.

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(Pixabay)

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Hamper: Etymology of the day

A laundry hamper, first attested in 1392, is shortened from hanaper, a case for a hanap, an old term for a precious goblet or drinking vessel. Its deeper roots are French and Frankish. The verb hamper, “to impede,” is apparently unrelated.

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It’s a long way from dirty socks. (Steve Hannaford)

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Looking directly at the—origin—of “eclipse”

A total solar eclipse will stretch across the United States today from Oregon to South Carolina. As umbraphiles look up at the eerie splendor of the rare astronomical event, I can’t help but look down—in my etymological dictionaries. Where does the word eclipse come from?

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During an eclipse, the sun is ever so…delinquent. (Pixabay)

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Some etymological news and updates from Mashed Radish

In lieu of a feature word origin today, I wanted to point you to some of my other etymological goings-on around the web. I’m very pleased to announce that I have two new series on the Oxford Dictionaries blog debuting this week.

Continue reading “Some etymological news and updates from Mashed Radish”

Gopher: Etymology of the day

While ultimately obscure, some think gopher, first attested in the early 1800s, comes from the Louisiana French gaufre, “honeycomb” or “waffle,” describing the structure of their burrows. Gaufre may in turn be from a Frankish word related to the Dutch wafel, source of waffle

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Kid: Etymology of the day

Kid, likely borrowed from Old Norse, named a “young goat” (1200s) long before it did “child.” Kid as “child” was a slang term in late 1500s, familiar, though informal, by the late 1800s.

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(Pixabay)

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