Etymologies of words and origins of phrases demonstrate a very human aspect to language. They show not only how cultures interacted with each other over time, but they also give a deep and sometimes silly insight into the creative processes that lead to a particular set of sounds to mean a particular thing.
As you might be aware, I am Steve3. I have become a Steve this last week, and shall remain a Steve for the foreseeable future. You will frequently see me posting some of these etymologies, and perhaps the ones you have already seen will end up here, and perhaps you will find something new.
What I want to show is how fun and silly languages can be, and not how boring and ‘school subject’-y language learning can sometimes show itself to be, especially in the realm of textbooks that focus entirely on grammar and not on the silly, fun and pure strangeness of the thing. So, without further ado, here are my top etymologies of the week! If you have anything interesting to add about any of these things, or related etymologies, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
The word ‘slogan’, which has come to mean ‘a short and striking or memorable phrase used in advertising, actually originated from the Irish Gaeilge ‘sluagh-ghairm’. ‘Sluagh’, means ‘army, host’, and ‘gairm’ means ‘cry’. The word first appeared in the English language in the early 1700s, when the anglicised ‘slogon’, from Scottish Gaelic first came into use.
The word ‘Tory’, which is a name used to describe the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom literally means ‘bandit, outlaw, or robber’. It was adapted from the Irish Gaeiilge and ‘tóraidhe’; modern Irish ‘tóraí’; modern Scottish Gaelic ‘tòraidh’. The word in Gaeilge has its etymology in the verb ‘tóir’ which means ‘to pursue’, as outlaws were ‘pursued men’.It was originally used to describe the guerilla armies of the Irish people who were resisting Cromwell’s forces ‘an irish rebel’, but later came to mean almost exactly the opposite.
Have you ever wondered what Easter, rabbits and eggs have in common? I had always thought that Easter was derived from the word ‘Estrogen’, and that it was simply a celebration of fertility. I had it the wrong way round however!
Easter, originates from a European Pagan celebration of the Goddess of Spring, Eostre, who would bring fertility to the land during the spring months. The word ‘estrogen’, came was named after the Goddess of Fertility!
The word window, though seemingly innocuous, has similarly interesting roots. It comes from Old Norse and combines two different concepts together: ‘vindr’, which means ‘wind’, and ‘auga’, which means to see. Although the word in English for ‘window’ comes from Old Norse, the Latin-Origin ‘Vinstre’, of which German found its word for ‘window’ (Fenster) is still apparent in some obscure terms such as my favourite word in the English language ‘defenestrate’, which means ‘to throw someone out of a window’