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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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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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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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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Nuance: Etymology of the day

The word nuance, first attested in the 1780s, comes from the French for “shade of color,” which in turn goes back to the Latin nubes, “cloud, mist, vapor.”

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Clouds can have a nuanced beauty. (Pixabay)

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Launch: Etymology of the Day

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.

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Angel with the lance, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome. (Wikimedia Commons)

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Spurious: Etymology of the Day

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.

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Flat-Earthers have longed presented spurious evidence for their theories, those bastards. (Wikimedia Commons).

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Etymology of the day: drastic

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. 

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(Pixabay)

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