Sunday 21 August 2022

Synonym Etymologies U

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter U and union. Old English, Old French and Latin have very similar words - unioun, union, and unionem respectively - have a Latin root of unus 'one', and Proto-Indo-European oi-no 'one, unique'. Note the word 'onion' has the same origin, a reference to the many layers uniting in a single vegetable.

Join is a simple word, just a single syllable, and clear evidence it is an ancient word. Coming to English from Old French and Latin, the word can be traced back to Proto-Indo-European yeug 'to join'.

Merge had a rather different original meaning of 'to plunge or sink in', a now obsolete sense but why the word is derived from Latin mergere 'to dip in, immerse'. The Proto-Indo-European root is mezgo 'to wash, plunge, dip, sink', and a word which is seen in Sanskrit majjanti 'to sink, dive', Lithuanian mazgoju 'to wash', and Latvian mazgat also 'to wash'. The change from the original meaning to the present one had to negotiate another couple of changes on the way. From 1726 one record shows the word was used to mean 'to be swallowed by, lose identity, disappear into', there is also a record from 1728 where the meaning is 'cause to be absorbed, vanish into something else'. The current sense is seen from 1805.

Fuse is first seen in 1680, with a meaning of 'melt, make liquid', it is a case of back-formation from 'fusion'. Not until 1817 do we find the sense 'blend, unite', and not until 1873 of 'become intermingled, blended'.

Combine is from Old French combiner, Late Latin combinare, and Proto-Indo-European dwo, meaning 'to unite', 'with, together', and 'two' respectively'.

Amalgamate, used in the sense of 'union' from 1797, is from 'amalgam'. This specifically describes blending another metal with mercury and comes from Old French amalgame and Latin amalgama, the latter particularly referring to a blend of mercury with gold or silver. We also find Arabic al-malgham, an alchemist's word referring to 'an emollient poultice or ungent for sores'. It is related to the Greek malagma 'softening substance' and goes back to Proto-Indo-European mel 'soft'.

Alliance once meant 'bond of marriage' around the end of the 13th century. Dervied from Old French aliance, with the same meaning, it comes from 'ally'. Latin alligare 'bind, tie to' gave us the French word, and came from the Proto-Indo-European root leig also mean 'tie, bind'.

Partner came to English from Old French parconier 'partner, associate', and Latin partitonem 'a sharing, division, distribution'. All these share a root in Proto-Indo-European pere 'to grant, allot'.

Syndicate is from 'syndic', a name describing a civil magsitrate, one seen in Geneva and other places. From the Latin syndicus and Greek syndikos, the root is Proto-Indo-European ksun meaning 'with'.

Sunday 14 August 2022

Synonym Etymologies T

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter T and top. Top was the Old English version almost 1,500 years ago, and few words are as generic as this word from the Germanic family which it always has the same meaning, albeit with slightly different usages. The Proto-Germanic root of toppa has also given us Old Norse toppr 'tuft of hair', Old Frisian top 'tuft', and Old Dutch topp Dutch top, and Old High German zopf all meaning 'end, tuft of hair'. Hence the use is for the upper part or surface and has been since well before recorded history some four thousand or more years ago.

Summit came to English from Old French somete, itself related to Latin summum and that connected to Latin super meaning 'over'.

Peak is a variation on 'pike', itself meaning ;sharp point' and traceable back to Vulgar Latin piccare 'to pick, pierce'.

Pinnacle also came from Old French and Latin, with pinacle and pinnaculum respectively. This is derived from the same root as 'pin', the Germanic family root being penn 'jutting point or peak'.

Crest came to English, where it was first used to refer to the highest part of the helmet, from Old French creste 'the tuft-like plume'. It can be traed back to Proto-Indo-European sker 'to bend'.

Crown another with an Old French corone and Latin corona history, where the original use of the Latin was to mean 'wreath, garland'. All are related to the Greek korone 'kind of crown', and traceable to Proto-Indo-European sker 'to bend'.

Brow had always been the eyebrow, with the occasional use of 'forehead' from 1400, since the Proto-Indo-European bhru.

Head is another ancient word, with similar forms in all Germanic languages, and all traceable to Proto-Indo-European kaput 'head'.

Brink is most often used to mean 'edge' and that was the meaning of the Proto-Indo-European root bhreng.

Apex is a Latin word and comes from another Latin word apere 'to fasten, fix' and coming from Proto-Indo-European ap 'to take, reach'.

Acme is a Greek word derived from the Proto-Indo-European ak 'be sharp, to rise to a point'.

Highest is from 'high' and, along with almost all similar Germanic words, comes from Proto-Indo-European kouko 'hill'.

Lid is another sense, and seen in many Germanic tongues with the same meaning, all coming from Proto-Indo-European klito 'to lean'.

Top is also used to mean other things: the best part is unknown before 1660; the highest place first seen in 1620; the phrase 'over the top' is used in World War I to refer to an attack, and the same phrase seen in the sense of 'beyond reasonable limits' from as recently as 1968. The name of the toy has a very different etymology, and comes from the Old French topet and is derived from a type of seashell. The spinning top as a toy is first seen in 1680s.

Sunday 7 August 2022

Bank Holiday

This year, when we had an extra bank holiday in June to mark the Platinum Jubilee of her Majesty, we in England have an extra day added to the eight we normally get, Scotland get nine annually, and Northrn Ireland ten each year. It is no coincidence that I mention Bank Holidays, for it was 150 years this year that the first bank holiday was celebrated in the UK.

As Christmas Day and Good Friday had been common law holidays for hundreds of years, the idea of a Bank Holiday gave nominated days in the calendar the same status - that no payments or perform any task could be forced upon anyone that could not be forced on them on Christmas Day or Good Friday. Introduced by Liberal politican Sir John Lubbock, the Act dated December 1871 gave Easter Monday, Whit Monday, Boxing Day and the First Monday in August as holidays in England, Wales and Ireland; while Scotland had New Year's Day, Good Friday, First Monday in May, First Monday in August, and Christmas Day.

Since then St Patrick's Day was added in Ireland in 1903, New Year's Day in England in 1974; and Boxing Day in Scotland also added in 1974. From 1965, and initially as an experiment, the August Bank Holiday was moved to the last Monday in August in order to shorten the gap between August Bank Holiday and Christmas. For those first few years, Parliament would announce the date of August Bank Holiday each year. Yet the date would be based on the last Saturday in August, which resulted in August Bank Holiday in the years 1968 and 1969 falling in September. Eventually England, Wales and ireland had the August Bank Holiday moved permanently to the end of August, although Scotland retains the original first Monday to this day.

St Andrews Day has been a bank holiday in Scotland since 2007, and there is currently talk of doing the same for St George's Day in England and St David's Day in Wales. Correctly these, and the other days, are no longer bank holidays, for the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 was repealed in 1971 and superseded by the Banking and Financial Dealings Act of 1971. No surprise that title never caught on.

Synonym Etymologies S

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter S and stop. All versions suggest a Germanic origin, but with nothing earlier than Vulgar Latin stuppare it seems this is probably an example of a Germanic load word from Latin. The Latin stuppare is used in the sense 'to plug, to stop up', which explains why the modern sense of 'halt' is not seen until the middle of the 15th century, and even then it referred to a bung in a hole.

Cease comes from the Old French cesser and Latin cessare>, each with the same meaning. These can be traced to the Proto-Indo-European root ked 'to go, yield'.

End, here as a verb, comes from the noun and itself from Proto-Germanic andiaz 'the opposite side'. It comes from Proto-Indo-European antjo 'end, boundary' and its root ant 'front, forehead'.

Done is the past participle of 'do', itself traceable through the Germanic line to Proto-Indo-European dhe 'to set, put, place'.

Over is from the Old English uffera, with the same meaning. It is derived ultimately from the Proto-Indo-European root uper 'over' in the sense of 'above'.

Conclude can be traced back to the Latin claudere 'to shut'.

Terminate is another or Latin derivation, here terminare describes 'the end of the boundary'.

Pause is easy to trace through Old French pausee, Latin pausa, and Greek pausis, all with the same meaning.

Finish has only been used in the sense of 'the end' since 1790, the earlier meaning of 'that which gives completion' (as in paint or polish) is still in use. Coming to English from Old French finiss and Latin finire are as far as this can be traced, although it may have a link to the word 'fix'.

Halt is related to 'hold' and traceable to the Proto-Indo-European root keld 'to strike, cut'.

Saturday 6 August 2022

Synonym Etymologies R

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter R and round. It can be traced through Old French to Latin and rotundus 'like a wheel', which is where the trail ends. Also of interest is how the word came to English from the French roont and Anglo-French rounde as a surname.

Circular is clearly from 'circle', which is another from the Latin group of languages and where Latin circulus 'small ring, hoop'.

Bulbous is derived from bulb, itself from the French bulbe meaning 'onion'. This can be traced to the Greek bolbos 'plant with round swelling on an underground stem'.

Curved, from curve, can be traced to Latin curvus 'crooked, bent' and ultimately Proto-Indo-European sker 'to turn, bend'.

Elliptical is derived from ellipse, and the first of two words which are not strictly 'round' in the correct sense. Ellipse comes from the Old French ellipse and further back to Latin ellipsis which not only meant 'ellipse' but also 'a falling short, a deficit' and clearly as in the sense of 'not a circle'. These both come from the Greek elleipsis and first coined by Apollonius of Pergia in the 3rd century BCE, to describe the section of the acute-angled cone which is smaller at the base than the side.

Oval is another 'not round' words, comes from Latin ovalis or 'egg-shaped'. Note the term 'Oval Office' to refer to the Presidency of the USA is first seen in 1942.

Spherical is the first of two words which are three dimensional and thus not 'round' in the usual sense. Derived from 'sphere', the word comes from Old French espereand Latin sphaera 'globe, ball, celestial sphere'.

Cylindrical, from cylinder, came to English from Old French cylindre and Latin cylindrus 'roller, cylinder, roll'.

Around has been increasingly ignored in favour of round and, unsurprisingly, shares the same root.

Round is also used in a number of phrases: round the clock is first recorded in 1715; round the world appears in 1600; round the corner in 1743; nobody took a round trip until 1844; a round number (multiples of ten, hundred, thousand, etc) from 1640; to make the rounds as recently as 1967; and nobody bought a round of drinks until 1880 and interestingly it was banned from July 1916 until June 1919.