Sunday 17 July 2022

Synonym Etymologies Q

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter Q and quiet. Coming to English from Old French quiete, itself from Latin quies, and Proto-Indo-European kweie and all with the same meaning as the modern word.

Silent is from the Latin silentem>, but both originally meant 'still, calm, quiet', and not used in the sense of 'without a sound' until around 1580.

Hush is first seen as Middle English huisht with the same meaning. Difficult to know just how this word developed, if it could indeed be considered a word in earliest times, for it seems to have developed as being the sound most easily produced with a minimum of effort. Interesting to note the original hush-puppy is found in 1899 and was a deep fried ball of cornmeal batter.

Mute is from Old French muet 'dumb, mute' and from Latin mutus with the same meaning and related to Greek myein 'to be shut' (as on the mouth).

Dumb is from Proto-Germanic dumbaz 'dumb, dull' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European dheu 'dust, mist, vapour, smoke'. Note the final 'b' has probably been silent since the 13th century.

Low has been used in this sense since around 1300, it comes from the Proto-Indo-European root legh 'to lie down'.

Muffle in the sense of deadening sound is first recorded in 1761, probably because it referred to muffling the sound of oars using a similar material to that used in the Old French moufle 'thick glove, mitten'.

Faint is used in the sense of 'weak', and comes from the Proto-Indo-European dheigh 'to form, build'.

Confidential is from 'confidence', where the prefix com- precedes the Lain fidere 'to trust', itself from Proto-Indo-European bheidh 'to trust'.

Secret takes two Latin elements: se 'without, apart' and cernere 'to separate' - thus not to tell or impart.

Discreet is very similar to 'secret', with dis 'off, away' preceding cernere.

Sunday 10 July 2022

Synonym Etymologies P

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter P and pen. Pen has two senses, the place where animals are kept, and the writing implement. We will deal with them in this order. Sadly the Old English penn is as far back as the word can be traced, it having the same meaning, although there are some who think it might be related to Old English pinn which means 'pin' and also 'peg'. The idea here being it refers to the peg which kept the lock-up closed. And before we look at the synonyms, the other meaning, that of writing implement, which is much easier to trace back. This sense comes from the Latin penna 'a feather' - which is just what was used for writing for almost all of history.

Enclosure, from enclose, and the Old French enclos 'surround, confine'. Clearly this shares a root with 'close', which also came to English from French, and all derived from the root in Proto-Indo-European where klau meant 'hook, peg, nail, pin'. This is another clue to the possible origin of pen in pinn.

Fold is a word which was only seen in Old English and related languages. It seems this can only have come from a general Germanic word which is seen in East Frisian folt and Dutch vaalt both of which mean 'dunghill', and thus a place where both could be found.

Pound is from a late Old English kenning pundfald or 'penfold'. Here the animal was held in both a 'pen' and a 'fold'.

Sty is from Proto Germanic stijan, itself producing Old English stig, Old Norse stia, Old High German stiga, Danish sti, and Swedish stia, all being used to mean a place for pigs, and also used as a place where dogs, sheep, goats, and cattle were housed.

Coop is another word of Germanic origins, with similar words in related languages. To understand this we need to understand the original coop was not a wooden shed-like construction but a large wicker enclosed basket. This then makes the link to Latin cupa 'tub, cask' more easy to see. We can trace it back further to Proto-Indo-European keup 'hollow mound', which has also given us the word 'cup'.

Cage naturally follows, and this came to English from Old French where cage referred to a 'cage, prison, retreat, hideout'. Unsurprisingly it shares a root with 'cave'.

Confine comes from the French verb confiner 'to border, shut up, enclose'. This comes from the noun 'confines', itself from the prefix 'con-' meaning 'together' and the root of 'finish'.

Surround once only referred to a watery scene - Middle English surrounden 'to flood, overflow' - and came through the Latin line from Proto-Indo-European wed- meaning 'water, wet'.

Trap and 'tread' have nearly identical developments. Indeed 'trap' and 'tread' both come from the Proto-Indo-European root dreb meaning 'run, walk, step'. The sense for 'trap' clearly being when the target steps into the snare.

Quill is also a writing implement, but historically only referred to the hollow stem of the feather (and also to 'a stalk, a reed'). As a writing implement the word is unknown before 1550, and in referring to the porcupine quill not until 1600. The word came from Low German quiele, with the same meaning, although its roots are unknown.

Nib is another reference to the writing implement, is seen since 1590, and is identical to 'neb' meaning 'the bill or beak of a bird'.

Biro began as a proprietary name for the ball-point pen, and is named after its inventor, Hungarian Laszlo Biro. Note the rights to produce a ball-point pen was sold to a French company, who were allowed to name it after their founder, Marcel Bich. Although his surname is pronounced 'Bic', the dropping of the final letter ensured there was no mispronunciation by English speakers.

Sunday 3 July 2022

Synonym Etymologies O

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter O and old. While it is easy to see this as being used in the sense of 'mature', indeed the word has been used to mean just that for at least a millennium, the Proto-Indo-European root of al was used in the sense of 'grow, nourish' - effectively 'to make old'. Note the Scottish version of auld is a preservation of the Old English ald.

Mature also began in the same sense as the root of 'old' above. It came to English from Latin maturus meaning 'ripe, timely, early', the earliest root being Proto-Indo-European meh-tu 'ripeness'.

Aged, clearly from 'age' and first used as a noun. Here, rather than being related to nurturing crops, the Proto-Indo-European root aiw certainly is used in the same sense for it means 'vital force, life, eternity' depending upon the context.

Senior can be traced to the Proto-Indo-European sen meaning simply 'old'. Not used in English in the sense of 'higher rank' until the early 16th century, prior to that it was only used to denote which of two relatives (nearly always male) having the same name.

Past began as an adjective, and used in the sense of 'done with, no longer existing', not until five centuries ago was it ever used in the modern sense. The word came from 'pass', itself derived from Latin passus 'pace, step' and earlier Proto-Indo-European pete 'to spread'.

Gone is from 'go', itself a simplistic and very ancient word coming from Proto-Indo-European ghe 'to be released'.

Previous has two elements, both Latin where praevius had the same meaning and was comprised of prae 'before' and via 'road'.

Ancient is first used in English around the early 15th century. Prior to that it is seen in the Latin anteanus 'from before', and earlier still in Proto-Indo-European anti 'against' and ant 'front, forehead'.

Historic, clearly from 'historical' and thus 'history', came to English from Old French estoire 'story, chronicle'. Earlier the trail can be seen in Greek historia 'a learning' and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European weid 'to see' and also 'to know'.