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.
Via French lancher/lancier, launch ultimately comes from the Latin lancea, a “light spear,” which is also the source of lance (except we’re not using spears anymore…). The verb, first attested in the early 1400s, shifted from “hurl” to “send off,” hence boats and, much more scarily, missiles.
Spurious, now meaning “false,” originally described children born out of wedlock—or, more crudely, bastards. It comes from the Latin spurius, an “illegitimate child,” itself possibly of Etruscan origin. The ancient Romans also commonly used Spurius as a given name for such offspring.
In the late 1600s, drastic originally referred to medicine that vigorously acted on the bowels. It comes from the Greek drastikos, “effective,” whose root verb dran, “to do or act,” also gives us the word drama.
Neighbor comes from the Old English neahgebur, meaning “near-dweller.” The first part, neah, means and gives us “nigh.” Its modern replacement, near, is the comparative form (faster < fast) of neah, and literally means “more nigh.” The second part, gebur, is “dweller.”
Today is National Avocado Day. Why don’t you observe it with a little etymology?
Via Spanish, avocado comes from the Nahuatl (Aztec) ahuacatl. It means “testicle.” (Try that on some toast.) The Nahuatl language also gives us the words tomato and chocolate, as I discuss in an old post.
Woebegone doesn’t mean “Woe, go away!” It means “beset with woe.” The begone comes from an old, obsolete verb, bego, “to go about, surround,” among other senses. So, in Middle English, you might have heard the expression: “Me is wo begon.”
Uncouth originally meant “unknown,” from the Old English cuth (known), past participle of cunnan (to know), source of can. Its sense evolved from “unknown” to “strange” to “clumsy” to “unsophisticated.”