The Romance of Words (4th ed.)
by Ernest Weekley
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Transcriber's Note:

Unique page headings have been retained, marked as [Page Heading] and positioned prior to the relevant paragraph.

Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Significant amendments have been listed at the end of the text.

Greek text has been transliterated and is shown between {braces}.

Non-ASCII characters are represented as follows: ă a with breve ĕ e with breve ŭ u with breve ā a with macron ē e with macron ī i with macron ō o with macron ū u with macron [oe] oe ligature s long s



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"Vous savez le latin, sans doute?"— "Oui, mais faites comme si je ne le savais pas." (MOLIERE, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, ii. 6.)




A long and somewhat varied experience in language teaching has convinced me that there are still, in spite of the march of science, many people who are capable of getting intellectual pleasure from word-history. I hope that to such people this little book, the amusement of occasional leisure, will not be unwelcome. It differs, I believe, from any other popular book on language in that it deals essentially with the origins of words, and makes no attempt to enforce a moral. My aim has been to select especially the unexpected in etymology, "things not generally known," such as the fact that Tammany was an Indian chief, that assegai occurs in Chaucer, that jilt is identical with Juliet, that brazil wood is not named from Brazil, that to curry favour means to comb down a horse of a particular colour, and so forth. The treatment is made as simple as possible, a bowing acquaintance with Latin and French being all that is assumed, though words from many other languages are necessarily included. In the case of each word I have traced the history just so far back as it is likely to be of interest to the reader who is not a philological specialist.

I have endeavoured to state each proposition in its simplest terms, without enumerating all the reservations and indirect factors which belong to the history of almost every word.

The chapter headings only indicate in a general way the division of the subject matter, the arrangement of which has been determined rather by the natural association which exists between words. The quotations are, with few exceptions, drawn from my own reading. They come from very varied sources, but archaic words are exemplified, when possible, from authors easily accessible, generally Shakespeare or Milton, or, for revived archaisms, Scott. In illustrating obsolete meanings I have made much use of the earliest dictionaries[1] available.

It seemed undesirable to load a small work of this kind with references. The writer on word-lore must of necessity build on what has already been done, happy if he can add a few bricks to the edifice. But philologists will recognise that this book is not, in the etymological sense, a mere compilation,[2] and that a considerable portion of the information it contains is here printed for the first time in a form accessible to the general reader.[3] Chapter VII., on Semantics, is, so far as I know, the first attempt at a simple treatment of a science which is now admitted to an equality with phonetics, and which to most people is much more interesting.

Throughout I have used the New English Dictionary, in the etymological part of which I have for some years had a humble share, for purposes of verification. Without the materials furnished by the historical method of that great national work, which is now complete from A to R, this book would not have been attempted. For words in S to Z, I have referred chiefly to Professor Skeat's Etymological Dictionary (4th ed., Oxford, 1910).

It is not many years since what passed for etymology in this country was merely a congeries of wild guesses and manufactured anecdotes. The persistence with which these crop up in the daily paper and the class-room must be my excuse for "slaying the slain" in Chapter XIII. Some readers may regret the disappearance of these fables, but a little study will convince them that in the life of words, as in that of men, truth is stranger than fiction.



On its first publication this little book was very kindly treated by both reviewers and readers. The only criticism of any importance was directed against its conciseness. There seemed to be a consensus of expert opinion that, the book being intended for the non-specialist, the compression was a little too severe, and likely sometimes to lead to misunderstanding. I have tried to remedy this defect in the present edition, both by giving fuller explanations and by supplying further quotations in illustration of the less common words and uses. No absolutely new matter is introduced, but a number of fresh words have been added as examples of points already noticed. The general arrangement of the book remains unchanged, except that a few paragraphs have been shifted to what seemed more natural positions.

Friendly correspondents in all parts of the world, to many of whom I must apologise for my failure to answer their letters, have sent me information of interest and value. In some cases I have been able to make use of such information for this edition. Many readers have called my attention to local and American survivals of words and meanings described as obsolete. This is a subject on which a great deal could be written, but it lies outside the plan of this book, which does not aspire to do more than furnish some instruction or entertainment to those who are interested in the curiosities of etymology.



It is just five years since this little book was first submitted to the toleration of word-lovers, a class much more numerous than the author had suspected. The second edition, revised and slightly enlarged, appeared in 1913. Since then the text has once more been subjected to a searching revision, and it is hoped that the book now contains no statement which is not in accord with common sense and the present state of philological knowledge. Only those who have experience of such work know how easy it is to stray unconsciously from the exact truth in publishing the results of etymological research. Moreover, new light is constantly being thrown on old problems, and theories long triumphant have occasionally to yield to fresh evidence. To take an example from this volume, the traditional derivation of trousers from French trousse is now shown by the New English Dictionary to be chronologically improbable. That great and cautious work unhesitatingly describes hatchment as a corruption of achievement, but Professor Derocquigny, of Lille, has shown (Modern Language Review, January 1913) that this etymology is "preposterous," hachement being a good old French word which in 16th century English was ignorantly confused with achievement. Apart from these two etymologies,[4] the only essential alterations have been made in the chapter on Surnames (p. 170), further research in medieval records having convinced the author that most of what has been written about "corrupted" surnames is nonsense, and that no nickname is too fantastic to be genuine.[5] Two slight contemplated alterations have not been carried out. The adjective applied (p. 156) to a contemporary ruler seemed to need reconsideration, but the author was baffled by the embarras du choix. A word mentioned on p. 48 might gracefully have been omitted, but it is likely that the illustrious man alluded to would, if the page should ever accidentally meet his eye, only chuckle at the thought of time's revenges.

In the interval since the last edition of the Romance of Words the greatest Romance of Deeds in our story has been written in the blood of our noblest and best. Only a sense of proportion withholds the author from dedicating this new edition to the glorious memory of his many old pupils dead on the field of honour. Nothing in the modest success of the book has given him so much pleasure as the fact, to which his correspondence bears witness, that his little contribution to word-lore has helped to amuse the convalescence of more than one stricken fighting-man.



In preparing a new edition of this little book, ten years after its first appearance, I have corrected a few slight inaccuracies which had been overlooked in earlier revisions, and modified or expanded some statements which were not quite consonant with the present state of etymological knowledge. In word-lore, as in other sciences, it is seldom safe to lay down the law without a little conscientious "hedging." The only two considerable alterations have to do with the word snickersnee, the history of which is now clearly traced, and the name Bendigo. It is rather strange that no reader or reviewer has ever put me right on the subject of this Nottingham worthy, for the facts are plainly stated in the Dictionary of National Biography.



[1] For a list of these see p. xii.

[2] Compilatio, "pillage, polling, robbing" (Cooper).

[3] Among words on which the reader will find either entirely new information or a modification of generally accepted views are akimbo, anlace, branks, caulk, cockney, felon (a whitlow), foil, kestrel, lugger, mulligrubs, mystery (a craft), oriel, patch, petronel, salet, sentry, sullen, tret, etc.

[4] In spite of the fact that the New English Dictionary now finds shark applied to the fish some years before the first record of shark, a sharper, parasite, I adhere to my belief that the latter is the earlier sense. The new example quoted, from a Tudor "broadside," is more suggestive of a sailor's apt nickname than of zoological nomenclature—"There is no proper name for it that I knowe, but that sertayne men of Captayne Haukinses doth call it a sharke" (1569).

[5] See the author's Surnames (John Murray, 1916), especially pp. 177-83.
















The following dictionaries are quoted without further reference:—

Palsgrave, French and English (1530). Cooper, Latin and English (1573). Percyvall, Spanish and English (1591). Florio, Italian and English (1598). Cotgrave, French and English (1611). Torriano, Italian and English (1659). Hexham, Dutch and English (1660). Ludwig, German and English (1716).




The bulk of our literary language is Latin, and consists of words either borrowed directly or taken from "learned" French forms. The every-day vocabulary of the less educated is of Old English, commonly called Anglo-Saxon, origin; and from the same source comes what we may call the machinery of the language, i.e., its inflexions, numerals, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions. Along with Anglo-Saxon, we find a considerable number of words from the related Norse languages, this element being naturally strongest in the dialects of the north and east of England. The third great element of our working vocabulary is furnished by Old French, i.e., the language naturally developed from the spoken Latin of the Roman soldiers and colonists, generally called Vulgar Latin. To its composite character English owes its unequalled richness in expression. For most ideas we have three separate terms, or groups of terms, which, often starting from the same metaphor, serve to express different shades of meaning. Thus a deed done with malice prepense (an Old French compound from Lat. pensare, to weigh), is deliberate or pondered, both Latin words which mean literally "weighed"; but the four words convey four distinct shades of meaning. The Gk. sympathy is Lat. compassion, rendered in English by fellow-feeling.

Sometimes a native word has been completely supplanted by a loan word, e.g., Anglo-Sax. here, army (cf. Ger. Heer), gave way to Old Fr. (h)ost (p. 158). This in its turn was replaced by army, Fr. armee, which, like its Spanish doublet armada, is really a feminine past participle with some word for host, band, etc., understood. Here has survived in Hereford, harbour (p. 164), harbinger (p. 90), etc., and in the verb harry (cf. Ger. verheeren, to harry).

Or a native word may persist in some special sense, e.g., weed, a general term for garment in Shakespeare—

"And there the snake throws her enamel'd skin, Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in." (Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. 2.)

survives in "widow's weeds." Chare, a turn of work—

"the maid that milks And does the meanest chares." (Antony and Cleopatra, iv. 15.)

has given us charwoman, and persists as American chore

"Sharlee was ... concluding the post-prandial chores." (H. S. HARRISON, Queed, Ch. 17.)

Sake, cognate with Ger. Sache, thing, cause, and originally meaning a contention at law, has been replaced by cause, except in phrases beginning with the preposition for. See also bead (p. 74). Unkempt, uncombed, and uncouth, unknown, are fossil remains of obsolete verb forms.

In addition to these main constituents of our language, we have borrowed words, sometimes in considerable numbers, sometimes singly and accidentally, from almost every tongue known to mankind, and every year sees new words added to our vocabulary. The following chapters deal especially with words borrowed from Old French and from the other Romance languages, their origins and journeyings, and the various accidents that have befallen them in English. It is in such words as these that the romance of language is best exemplified, because we can usually trace their history from Latin to modern English, while the earlier history of Anglo-Saxon words is a matter for the philologist.

[Page Heading: LATIN WORDS]

Words borrowed directly from Latin or Greek lack this intermediate experience, though the study of their original meanings is full of surprises. This, however, is merely a question of opening a Latin or Greek dictionary, if we have not time for the moment's reflexion which would serve the same purpose. Thus, to take a dozen examples at random, to abominate[6] is to turn shuddering from the evil omen, a generous man is a man of "race" (genus), an innuendo can be conveyed "by nodding," to insult is to "jump on," a legend is something "to be read," a manual is a "hand-book," an obligation is essentially "binding," to relent is to "go slow," rivals are people living by the same "stream"[7] (rivus), a salary is an allowance for "salt" (sal), a supercilious man is fond of lifting his "eyebrows" (supercilium), and a trivial matter is so commonplace that it can be picked up at the meeting of "three ways" (trivium). Dexterity implies skill with the "right" hand (dexter), while sinister preserves the superstition of the ill-omened "left."

It may be remarked here that the number of Latin words used in their unaltered form in every-day English is larger than is generally realised. Besides such phrases as bona-fide, post-mortem, viva-voce, or such abbreviations as A.M., ante meridiem, D.V., Deo volente, and L. s. d., for librae, solidi, denarii, we have, without including scientific terms, many Latin nouns, e.g., animal, genius, index, odium, omen, premium, radius, scintilla, stimulus, tribunal, and adjectives, e.g., complex, lucifer, miser, pauper, maximum, senior, and the ungrammatical bonus. The Lat. veto, I forbid, has been worked hard of late. The stage has given us exit, he goes out, and the Universities exeat, let him go out, while law language contains a number of Latin verb forms, e.g., affidavit (late Latin), he has testified, caveat, let him beware, cognovit, he has recognised—

"You gave them a cognovit for the amount of your costs after the trial, I'm told." (Pickwick, Ch. 46.)

due to the initial words of certain documents. Similarly item, also, is the first word in each paragraph of an inventory. With this we may compare the purview of a statute, from the Old Fr. pourveu (pourvu), provided, with which it used to begin. A tenet is what one "holds." Fiat means "let it be done." When Mr Weller lamented—

"Oh, Sammy, Sammy, vy worn't there a alleybi?" (Pickwick, Ch. 34.)

it is safe to say that he was not consciously using the Latin adverb alibi, elsewhere, nor is the printer who puts in a viz. always aware that this is an old abbreviation for videlicet, i.e., videre licet, it is permissible to see. A nostrum is "our" unfailing remedy, and tandem, at length, instead of side by side, is a university joke.


Sometimes we have inflected forms of Latin words. A rebus[8] is a word or phrase represented "by things." Requiem, accusative of requies, rest, is the first word of the introit used in the mass for the dead—

"Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine,"

while dirge is the Latin imperative dirige, from the antiphon in the same service—

"Dirige, Domine meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam."

The spelling dirige was once common—

"Also I byqwethe to eche of the paryshe prystys beying at my dyryge and masse xiid." (Will of John Perfay, of Bury St. Edmunds, 1509.)

Query was formerly written quaere, seek, and plaudit is for plaudite, clap your hands, the appeal of the Roman actors to the audience at the conclusion of the play—

"Nunc, spectatores, Iovis summi causa clare plaudite." (PLAUTUS, Amphitruo.)

Debenture is for debentur, there are owing. Dominie is the Latin vocative domine, formerly used by schoolboys in addressing their master, while pandy, a stroke on the hand with a cane, is from pande palmam, hold out your hand. Parse is the Lat. pars, occurring in the question Quae pars orationis? What part of speech? Omnibus, for all, is a dative plural. Limbo is the ablative of Lat. limbus, an edge, hem, in the phrase "in limbo patrum," where limbus is used for the abode of the Old Testament saints on the verge of Hades. It is already jocular in Shakespeare—

"I have some of 'em in limbo patrum, and there they are like to dance these three days." (Henry VIII., v. 3.)

Folio, quarto, etc., are ablatives, from the phrases in folio, in quarto, etc., still used in French. Premises, earlier premisses, is a slightly disguised Lat. praemissas, the aforesaid, lit. sent before, used in deeds to avoid repeating the full description of a property. It is thus the same word as logical premisses, or assumptions. Quorum is from a legal formula giving a list of persons "of whom" a certain number must be present. A teetotum is so called because it has, or once had, on one of its sides, a T standing for totum, all. It was also called simply a totum. The other three sides also bore letters to indicate what share, if any, of the stake they represented. Cotgrave has totum (toton), "a kind of game with a whirle-bone." In spite of the interesting anecdote about the temperance orator with an impediment in his speech, it was probably teetotum that suggested teetotaller.

We have also a few words straight from Greek, e.g., analysis, aroma, atlas, the world-sustaining demi-god whose picture used to decorate map-books, colon, comma, dogma, epitome, miasma, nausea, Gk. {nausia}, lit. sea-sickness, nectar, whence the fruit called a nectarine

"Nectarine fruits which the compliant boughs Yielded them, sidelong as they sat recline." (Paradise Lost, iv. 332.)

pathos, python, pyx, synopsis, etc.; but most of our Greek words have passed through French via Latin, or are newly manufactured scientific terms, often most unscientifically constructed.

Gamut contains the Gk. gamma and the Latin conjunction ut. Guy d'Arezzo, who flourished in the 11th century, is said to have introduced the method of indicating the notes by the letters a to g. For the note below a he used the Gk. gamma. To him is attributed also the series of monosyllables by which the notes are also indicated. They are supposed to be taken from a Latin hymn to St John—

Ut queant laxis resonare fibris Mira gestorum famuli tuorum Solve polluti labii reatum Sancte Iohannes.

Do is sometimes substituted for ut in French, and always in modern English.


In considering the Old French element in English, one has to bear in mind a few elementary philological facts. Nearly all French nouns and adjectives are derived from the accusative. I give, for simplicity, the nominative, adding the stem in the case of imparisyllabic words. The foundation of French is Vulgar Latin, which differs considerably from that we study at school. I only give Vulgar Latin forms where it cannot be avoided. For instance, in dealing with culverin (p. 38), I connect Fr. couleuvre, adder, with Lat. colŭber, a snake. Every Romance philologist knows that it must represent Vulgar Lat. *colobra; but this form, which, being conjectural, is marked with an asterisk, had better be forgotten by the general reader.

Our modern English words often preserve a French form which no longer exists, or they are taken from dialects, especially those of Normandy and Picardy, which differ greatly from that of Paris. The word caudle illustrates both these points. It is the same word as modern Fr. chaudeau, "a caudle; or, warme broth" (Cotgrave), but it preserves the Old French[9] -el for -eau, and the Picard c- for ch-. An uncomfortable bridle which used to be employed to silence scolds was called the branks. It is a Scottish word, originally applied to a bridle improvised from a halter with a wooden "cheek" each side to prevent it from slipping—

"And then its shanks, They were as thin, as sharp and sma' As cheeks o' branks." (BURNS, Death and Doctor Hornbook, vii. 4.)

These cheeks correspond to the two parallel levers called the "branches" of a bridle, and brank is the Norman branque, branch. All the meanings of patch answer to those of Fr. piece. It comes from the Old French dialect form peche, as match comes from meche, and cratch, a manger, from creche, of German origin, and ultimately the same word as crib. Cratch is now replaced, except in dialect, by manger, Fr. mangeoire, from manger, to eat, but it was the regular word in Mid. English—

"Sche childide her firste born sone, and wlappide him in clothis, and puttide in a cracche." (WYCLIF, Luke, ii. 7.)

Pew is from Old Fr. puy, a stage, eminence, Lat. podium, which survives in Puy de Dome, the mountain in Auvergne on which Pascal made his experiments with the barometer. Dupuy is a common family name in France, but the Depews of the West Indies have kept the older pronunciation.

Many Old French words which live on in England are obsolete in France. Chime is Old Fr. chimbe from Greco-Lat. cymbalum. Minsheu (1617) derived dismal from Lat. dies mali, evil days. This, says Trench, "is exactly one of those plausible etymologies which one learns after a while to reject with contempt." But Minsheu is substantially right, if we substitute Old Fr. dis mal, which is found as early as 1256. Old Fr. di, a day, also survives in the names of the days of the week, lundi, etc. In remainder and remnant we have the infinitive and present participle of an obsolete Old French verb derived from Lat. remanēre. Manor and power are also Old French infinitives, the first now only used as a noun (manoir), the second represented by pouvoir. Misnomer is the Anglo-French infinitive, "to misname."


In some cases we have preserved meanings now obsolete in French. Trump, in cards, is Fr. triomphe, "the card game called ruffe, or trump; also, the ruffe, or trump at it" (Cotgrave), but the modern French word for trump is atout, to all. Rappee is for obsolete Fr. (tabac) rape, pulverised, rasped. Fr. talon, heel, from Vulgar Lat. *talo, talon-, for talus, was applied by falconers to the heel claw of the hawk. This meaning, obsolete in French, has persisted in English. The mizen mast is the rearmost of three, but the Fr. mat de misaine is the fore-mast, and both come from Ital. mezzana middle, "also the poop or mizensail[10] in a ship" (Torriano).

As in the case of Latin, we have some inflected French forms in English. Lampoon is from the archaic Fr. lampon, "a drunken song" (Miege, French Dict., 1688). This is coined from the imperative lampons, let us drink, regularly used as a refrain in seditious and satirical songs. For the formation we may compare American vamose, to skedaddle, from Span. vamos, let us go. The military revelly is the French imperative reveillez, wake up, but in the French army it is called the diane. The gist of a matter is the point in which its importance really "lies." Ci-git, for Old Fr. ci-gist, Lat. jacet, here lies, is seen on old tombstones. Tennis, says Minsheu, is so called from Fr. tenez, hold, "which word the Frenchmen, the onely tennis-players, use to speake when they strike the ball." This etymology, for a long time regarded as a wild guess, has been shewn by recent research to be most probably correct. The game is of French origin, and it was played by French knights in Italy a century before we find it alluded to by Gower (c. 1400). Erasmus tells us that the server called out accipe, to which his opponent replied mitte, and as French, and not Latin, was certainly the language of the earliest tennis-players, we may infer that the spectators named the game from the foreign word with which each service began. In French the game is called paume, palm of the hand; cf. fives, also a slang name for the hand. The archaic assoil

"And the holy man he assoil'd us, and sadly we sail'd away." (TENNYSON, Voyage of Maeldune, xi. 12.)

is the present subjunctive of the Old Fr. asoldre (absoudre), to absolve, used in the stereotyped phrase Dieus asoile, may God absolve.

A linguistic invasion such as that of English by Old French is almost unparalleled. We have instances of the expulsion of one tongue by another, e.g., of the Celtic dialects of Gaul by Latin and of those of Britain by Anglo-Saxon. But a real blending of two languages can only occur when a large section of the population is bilingual for centuries. This, as we know, was the case in England. The Norman dialect, already familiar through inevitable intercourse, was transplanted to England in 1066. It developed further on its own lines into Anglo-Norman, and then, mixed with other French dialects, for not all the invaders were Normans, and political events brought various French provinces into relation with England, it produced Anglo-French, a somewhat barbarous tongue which was the official language till 1362, and with which our legal jargon is saturated. We find in Anglo-French many words which are unrecorded in continental Old French, among them one which we like to think of as essentially English, viz., duete, duty, an abstract formed from the past participle of Fr. devoir. This verb has also given us endeavour, due to the phrase se mettre en devoir

"Je me suis en debvoir mis pour moderer sa cholere tyrannicque."[11] (Rabelais, i. 29.)

[Page Heading: NEOLOGISMS]

No dictionary can keep up with the growth of a language. The New English Dictionary had done the letter C before the cinematograph arrived, but got it in under K. Words of this kind are manufactured in such numbers that the lexicographer is inclined to wait and see whether they will catch on. In such cases it is hard to prophesy. The population of this country may be divided into those people who have been operated for appendicitis and those who are going to be. Yet this word was considered too rare and obscure for insertion in the first volume of the New English Dictionary (1888), the greatest word-book that has ever been projected. Sabotage looks, unfortunately, as if it had come to stay. It is a derivative of saboter, to scamp work, from sabot, a wooden shoe, used contemptuously of an inferior article. The great French dictionaries do not know it in its latest sense of malicious damage done by strikers, and the New English Dictionary, which finished Sa- in the year 1912, just missed it. Hooligan is not recorded by the New English Dictionary. The original Hooligans were a spirited Irish family of that name whose proceedings enlivened the drab monotony of life in Southwark towards the end of the 19th century. The word is younger than the Australian larrikin, of doubtful origin (see p. 190), but older than Fr. apache. The adoption of the Red Indian name Apache for a modern Parisian bravo is a curious parallel to the 18th-century use of Mohock (Mohawk) for an aristocratic London ruffler.

Heckle is first recorded in its political sense for 1880. The New English Dictionary quotes it from Punch in connection with the Fourth Party. In Scottish, however, it is old in this sense, so that it is an example of a dialect word that has risen late in life. Its southern form hatchell is common in Mid. English in its proper sense of "teasing" hemp or flax, and the metaphor is exactly the same. Tease, earlier toose, means to pluck or pull to pieces, hence the name teasel for the thistle used by wool-carders. The older form is seen in the derivative tousle, the family name Tozer, and the dog's name Towser. Feckless, a common Scottish word, was hardly literary English before Carlyle. It is now quite familiar—

"Thriftless, shiftless, feckless." (Mr LLOYD GEORGE, 1st Nov. 1911.)

There is a certain appropriateness in the fact that almost the first writer to use it was James I. It is for effectless. I never heard of a week-end till I paid a visit to Lancashire in 1883. It has long since invaded the whole island. An old geezer has a modern sound, but it is the medieval guiser, guisard, mummer, which has persisted in dialect and re-entered the language.


The fortunes of a word are sometimes determined by accident. Glamour (see p. 145) was popularised by Scott, who found it in old ballad literature. Grail, the holy dish at the Last Supper, would be much less familiar but for Tennyson. Mascot, from a Provencal word meaning sorcerer, dates from Audran's operetta La Mascotte (1880). Jingo first appears in conjurors' jargon of the 17th century. It has been conjectured to represent Basque jinko, God, picked up by sailors. If this is the case, it is probably the only pure Basque word in English. The Ingoldsby derivation from St Gengulphus—

"Sometimes styled 'The Living Jingo,' from the great tenaciousness of vitality exhibited by his severed members,"

is of course a joke. In 1878, when war with Russia seemed imminent, a music-hall singer, the Great Macdermott, delighted large audiences with—

"We don't want to fight, but, by Jingo, if we do, We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too."

Hence the name jingo applied to that ultra-patriotic section of the population which, in war-time, attends to the shouting.[12] Fr. chauvin, a jingo, is the name of a real Napoleonic veteran introduced into Scribe's play Le Soldat Laboureur. Barracking is known to us only through the visits of English cricket teams to Australia. It is said to come from a native Australian word meaning derision. The American caucus was first applied (1878) by Lord Beaconsfield to the Birmingham Six Hundred. In 18th-century American it means meeting or discussion. It is probably connected with a North American Indian (Algonkin) word meaning counsellor, an etymology supported by that of pow-wow, a palaver or confab, which is the Algonkin for a medicine-man. With these words may be mentioned Tammany, now used of a famous political body, but, in the 18th century, of a society named after the "tutelar saint" of Pennsylvania. The original Tammany was an Indian chief with whom William Penn negotiated for grants of land about the end of the 17th century. Littoral first became familiar in connection with Italy's ill-starred Abyssinian adventure, and hinterland marked the appearance of Germany as a colonial power—

"'Let us glance a moment,' said Mr Queed, 'at Man, as we see him first emerging from the dark hinterlands of history.'" (H. S. HARRISON, Queed, Ch. 17.)

[Page Heading: BLUNDERS]

Sometimes the blunder of a great writer has enriched the language. Scott's bartisan

"Its varying circle did combine Bulwark, and bartisan, and line And bastion, tower ..." (Marmion, vi. 2.)

is a mistake for bratticing, timber-work, a word of obscure origin of which several corruptions are found in early Scottish. It is rather a favourite with writers of "sword and feather" novels. Other sham antiques are slug-horn, Chatterton's absurd perversion of the Gaelic slogan, war-cry, copied by Browning—

"Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set, And blew 'Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came.'"

and Scott's extraordinary misuse of warison, security, a doublet of garrison, as though it meant "war sound"—

"Or straight they sound their warison, And storm and spoil thy garrison." (Lay, iv. 21.)

Scott also gave currency to niddering, a coward—

"Faithless, mansworn,[13] and niddering." (Ivanhoe, Ch. 42.)

which has been copied by Lytton and Kingsley, and elaborated into nidderling by Mr Crockett. It is a misprint in an early edition of William of Malmesbury for niding or nithing, cognate with Ger. Neid, envy. This word, says Camden, is mightier than Abracadabra,[14] since—

"It hath levied armies and subdued rebellious enemies. For when there was a dangerous rebellion against King William Rufus, and Rochester Castle, then the most important and strongest fort of this realm, was stoutly kept against him, after that he had but proclaimed that his subjects should repair thither to his camp, upon no other penalty, but that whosoever should refuse to come should be reputed a niding, they swarmed to him immediately from all sides in such numbers that he had in a few days an infinite army, and the rebels therewith were so terrified that they forthwith yielded." (Remains concerning Britain.)

Derring-do is used several times by Spenser, who explains it as "manhood and chevalrie." It is due to his misunderstanding of a passage in Lidgate, in which it is an imitation of Chaucer, complicated by a misprint. Scott took it from Spenser—

"'Singular,' he again muttered to himself, 'if there be two who can do a deed of such derring-do.'" (Ivanhoe, Ch. 29.)

and from him it passed to Bulwer Lytton and later writers.

Such words as these, the illegitimate offspring of genius, are to be distinguished from the "ghost-words" which dimly haunt the dictionaries without ever having lived (see p. 201). Speaking generally, we may say that no word is ever created de novo. The names invented for commercial purposes are not exceptions to this law. Bovril is compounded of Lat. bos, ox, and vril,[15] the mysterious power which plays so important a part in Lytton's Coming Race, while Tono-Bungay suggests tonic. The only exception to this is gas, the arbitrary coinage of the Belgian chemist Van Helmont in the 17th century. But even this is hardly a new creation, because we have Van Helmont's own statement that the word chaos was vaguely present to his mind. Chortle has, however, secured a limited currency, and is admitted by the New English Dictionary

"O frabjous day! Callooh! callay! He chortled in his joy." (Through the Looking-Glass.)

and, though an accurate account of the boojum is lacking, most people know it to be a dangerous variety of snark.


[6] Abominable is regularly spelt abhominable in late Old French and Mid. English, as though meaning "inhuman," Lat. homo, homin-, a man.

[7] This etymology is doubted by some authorities.

[8] But the word comes to us from French. In the 16th century such puzzles were called rebus de Picardie, because of their popularity in that province.

[9] For simplicity the term Old French is used here to include all words not in modern use. Where a modern form exists it is given in parentheses.

[10] The name was thus applied to a sail before it was given to a mast. Although the Italian word means "middle," it is perhaps, in this particular sense, a popular corruption of an Arabic word of quite different meaning. The discussion of so difficult a problem is rather out of place in a book intended for the general reader, but I cannot refrain from giving a most interesting note which I owe to Mr W. B. Whall, Master Mariner, the author of Shakespeare's Sea Terms Explained—"The sail was (until c. 1780) lateen, i.e., triangular, like the sail of a galley. The Saracens, or Moors, were the great galley sailors of the Mediterranean, and mizen comes from Arab., miezen, balance. The mizen is, even now, a sail that 'balances,' and the reef in a mizen is still called the 'balance' reef."

[11] "I have endeavoured to moderate his tyrannical choler" (Urquhart's Translation, 1653).

[12] The credit of first using the word in the political sense is claimed both for George Jacob Holyoake and Professor Minto.

[13] From Anglo-Sax. mān, deceit, cognate with the first syllable of Ger. Meineid, perjury.

[14] This word, which looks like an unsuccessful palindrome, belongs to the language of medieval magic. It seems to be artificially elaborated from {abraxas}, a word of Persian origin used by a sect of Greek gnostics. Its letters make up the magic number 365, supposed to represent the number of spirits subject to the supreme being.

[15] In coining vril Lytton probably had in mind Lat. vis, vires, power, or the adjective virilis.



In assigning to a word a foreign origin, it is necessary to show how contact between the two languages has taken place, or the particular reasons which have brought about the borrowing. A Chinese word cannot suddenly make its appearance in Anglo-Saxon, though it may quite well do so in modern English. No nautical terms have reached us from the coast of Bohemia (Winter's Tale, iii. 3), nor is the vocabulary of the wine trade enriched by Icelandic words. Although we have words from all the languages of Europe, our direct borrowings from some of them have been small. The majority of High German words in English have passed through Old French, and we have taken little from modern German. On the other hand, commerce has introduced a great many words from the old Low German dialects of the North Sea and the Baltic.

The Dutch[16] element in English supplies a useful object lesson on the way in which the borrowing of words naturally takes place. As a great naval power, the Dutch have contributed to our nautical vocabulary a number of words, many of which are easily recognised as near relations; such are boom (beam), skipper (shipper), orlop (over leap), the name given to a deck which "over-runs" the ship's hold. Yacht, properly a "hunting" ship, is cognate with Ger. Jagd, hunting, but has no English kin. Hexham has jaght, "zee-roovers schip, pinace, or pirats ship." The modern Dutch spelling is jacht. We should expect to find art terms from the country of Hobbema, Rubens, Vandyke, etc. See easel (p. 39), etch (p. 133), lay-figure (p. 166), sketch (p. 22). Landscape, earlier landskip, has the suffix which in English would be -ship. In the 16th century Camden speaks of "a landskip, as they call it." The Low Countries were for two centuries the cock-pit of Europe, and many military terms were brought back to England by Dugald Dalgetty and the armies which "swore terribly in Flanders." Such are cashier (p. 157), forlorn hope (p. 129), tattoo (p. 162). Other interesting military words are leaguer (lair), recently re-introduced from South Africa as laager, and furlough. The latter word, formerly pronounced to rime with cough, is from Du. verlof (for leave); cf. archaic Ger. Verlaub, now replaced by Urlaub. Knapsack,[17] a food sack, comes from colloquial Du. knap, food, or what the Notts colliers call snap. We also find it called a snapsack. Both knap and snap contain the idea of "crunching"—

"I would she (Report) were as lying a gossip in that as ever knapped ginger." (Merchant of Venice, iii. 1.)

Roster (roaster) is the Dutch for gridiron, the allusion being to the parallel lines of the list or plan; for a somewhat similar metaphor cf. cancel (p. 88). The pleasant fiction that—

"The children of Holland take pleasure in making What the children of England take pleasure in breaking,"

confirms the derivation of toy from Du. tuig, implement, thing, stuff, etc., a word, like its German cognate Zeug, with an infinity of meanings. We now limit toy to the special sense represented by Du. speel-tuig, play-thing.


Our vocabulary dealing with war and fortification is chiefly French, but most of the French terms come from Italian. Addison wrote an article in No. 165 of the Spectator ridiculing the Frenchified character of the military language of his time, and, in the 16th century, Henri Estienne, patriot, printer, and philologist, lamented that future historians would believe, from the vocabulary employed, that France had learnt the art of war from Italy. As a matter of fact she did. The earliest writers on the new tactics necessitated by villainous saltpetre were Italians trained in condottiere warfare. They were followed by the great French theorists and engineers of the 16th and 17th centuries, who naturally adopted a large number of Italian terms which thus passed later into English.

A considerable number of Spanish and Portuguese words have reached us in a very roundabout way (see pp. 23-7). This is not surprising when we consider how in the 15th and 16th centuries the world was dotted with settlements due to the Portuguese and Spanish adventurers who had a hundred years' start of our own.

There are very few Celtic words either in English or French. In each country the result of conquest was, from the point of view of language, complete. A few words from the Celtic languages have percolated into English in comparatively recent times, but many terms which we associate with the picturesque Highlanders are not Gaelic at all.[18] Tartan comes through French from the Tartars (see p. 47); kilt is a Scandinavian verb, "to tuck up," and dirk,[19] of unknown origin, first appears about 1600. For trews see p. 117.

A very interesting part of our vocabulary, the canting, or rogues', language, dates mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries, and includes contributions from most of the European languages, together with a large Romany element. The early dictionary makers paid great attention to this aspect of the language. Elisha Coles, who published a fairly complete English dictionary in 1676, says in his preface, "'Tis no disparagement to understand the canting terms: it may chance to save your throat from being cut, or (at least), your pocket from being pick'd."

Words often go long journeys. Boss is in English a comparatively modern Americanism. But, like many American words, it belongs to the language of the Dutch settlers who founded New Amsterdam (New York). It is Du. baas, master, which has thus crossed the Atlantic twice on its way from Holland to England. A number of Dutch words became familiar to us about the year 1900 in consequence of the South African war. One of them, slim, 'cute, seems to have been definitely adopted. It is cognate with Ger. schlimm, bad, and Eng. slim, slender, and the latter word has for centuries been used in the Eastern counties in the very sense in which it has now been re-introduced.

Apricot is a much travelled word. It comes to us from Fr. abricot, while the Shakespearean apricock

"Feed him with apricocks and dewberries." (Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 1.)

represents the Spanish or Portuguese form. Ger. Aprikose comes, via Dutch, from the French plural. The word was adopted into the Romance languages from Arab. al-barquq, where al is the definite article (cf. examples on p. 115), while barquq comes, through medieval Greek, from Vulgar Lat. praecoquum, for praecox, early-ripe. Thus the word first crossed the Adriatic, passed on to Asia Minor or the North coast of Africa, and then travelling along the Mediterranean re-entered Southern Europe.


Many other Arabic trade words have a similar history. Carat comes to us, through French, from Italian carato, "a waight or degree called a caract" (Florio). The Italian word is from Arabic, but the Arabic form is a corruption of Gk. {keration}, fruit of the locust tree, lit. little horn, also used of a small weight. The verb to garble, now used only of confusing or falsifying,[20] meant originally to sort or sift, especially spices—

"Garbler of spices is an officer of great antiquity in the city of London, who may enter into any shop, warehouse, etc., to view and search drugs, spices, etc., and to garble the same and make them clean." (Cowel's Interpreter.)

It represents Span. garbellar, from garbello, a sieve. This comes from Arab. ghirbāl, a sieve, borrowed from Lat. cribellum, diminutive of cribrum. Quintal, an old word for hundred-weight, looks as if it had something to do with five. Fr. and Span. quintal are from Arab. qintar, hundred-weight, which is Lat. centenarium (whence directly Ger. Zentner, hundred-weight). The French word passed into Dutch, and gave, with a diminutive ending, kindekijn, now replaced by kinnetje, a firkin.[21] We have adopted it as kilderkin, but have doubled its capacity. With these examples of words that have passed through Arabic may be mentioned talisman, not a very old word in Europe, from Arab. tilsam, magic picture, ultimately from Gk. {telein}, to initiate into mysteries, lit. to accomplish, and effendi, a Turkish corruption of Gk. {authentes}, a master, whence Lat. authentic.

Hussar seems to be a late Latin word which passed into Greece and then entered Central Europe via the Balkans. It comes into 16th-century German from Hungar. huszar, freebooter. This is from a Serbian word which means also pirate. It represents medieval Gk. {koursarios}, a transliteration of Vulgar Lat. cursarius, from currere, to run, which occurs also with the sense of pirate in medieval Latin. Hussar is thus a doublet of corsair. The immediate source of sketch is Du. schets, "draught of any picture" (Hexham), from Ital. schizzo, "an ingrosement or first rough draught of anything" (Florio), whence also Fr. esquisse and Ger. Skizze. The Italian word represents Greco-Lat. schedium, an extempore effort.

Assassin and slave are of historic interest. Assassin, though not very old in English, dates from the Crusades. Its oldest European form is Ital. assassino, and it was adopted into French in the 16th century. Henri Estienne, whose fiery patriotism entered even into philological questions, reproaches his countrymen for using foreign terms. They should only adopt, he says, Italian words which express Italian qualities hitherto unknown to the French, such as assassin, charlatan, poltron! Assassin is really a plural, from the hachaschin, eaters of the drug haschish, who executed the decrees of the Old Man of the Mountains. It was one of these who stabbed Edward Longshanks at Acre. The first slaves were captive Slavonians. We find the word in most of the European languages. The fact that none of the Western tribes of the race called themselves Slavs or Slavonians shows that the word could not have entered Europe via Germany, where the Slavs were called Wends. It must have come from the Byzantine empire via Italy.

Some Spanish words have also come to us by the indirect route. The cocoa which is grateful and comforting was formerly spelt cacao, as in French and German. It is a Mexican word. The cocoa of cocoa-nut is for coco, a Spanish baby-word for an ugly face or bogie-man. The black marks at one end of the nut give it, especially before the removal of the fibrous husk, some resemblance to a ferocious face. Stevens (1706) explains coco as "the word us'd to fright children; as we say the Bulbeggar."

[Page Heading: COW-BOY WORDS]

Mustang seems to represent two words, mestengo y mostrenco, "a straier" (Percyvall). The first appears to be connected with mesta, "a monthly fair among herdsmen; also, the laws to be observed by all that keep or deal in cattle" (Stevens), and the second with mostrar, to show, the finder being expected to advertise a stray. The original mustangs were of course descended from the strayed horses of the Spanish conquistadors. Ranch, Span. rancho, a row (of huts), is a doublet of rank, from Fr. rang, Old Fr. reng, Old High Ger. hring, a ring. Thus what is now usually straight was once circular, the ground idea of arrangement surviving. Another doublet is Fr. harangue, due to the French inability to pronounce hr- (see p. 55), a speech delivered in the ring. Cf. also Ital. aringo, "a riding or carreering place, a liste for horses, or feates of armes: a declamation, an oration, a noise, a common loud speech" (Florio), in which the "ring" idea is also prominent.

Other "cow-boy" words of Spanish origin are the less familiar cinch, girth of a horse, Span. cincha, from Lat. cingula, also used metaphorically—

"The state of the elements enabled Mother Nature 'to get a cinch' on an honourable aestheticism." (Snaith, Mrs Fitz, Ch. 1.)

and the formidable riding-whip called a quirt, Span. cuerda, cord—

"Whooping and swearing as they plied the quirt." (Masefield, Rosas.)

Stories of Californian life often mention Span. reata, a tethering rope, from the verb reatar, to bind together, Lat. re-aptare. Combined with the definite article (la reata) it has given lariat, a familiar word in literature of the Buffalo Bill character. Lasso, Span. lazo, Lat. laqueus, snare, is a doublet of Eng. lace.

When, in the Song of Hiawatha

"Gitche Manito, the mighty, Smoked the calumet, the Peace-pipe, As a signal to the nations,"

he was using an implement with a French name. Calumet is an Old Norman word for chalumeau, reed, pipe, a diminutive from Lat. calamus. It was naturally applied by early French voyagers to the "long reed for a pipe-stem." Eng. shawm is the same word without the diminutive ending. Another Old French word, once common in English, but now found only in dialect, is felon, a whitlow. It is used more than once by Mr Hardy—

"I've been visiting to Bath because I had a felon on my thumb." (Far from the Madding Crowd, Ch. 33.)

This is still an every-day word in Canada and the United States. It is a metaphorical use of felon, a fell villain. A whitlow was called in Latin furunculus, "a little theefe; a sore in the bodie called a fellon" (Cooper), whence Fr. furoncle, or froncle, "the hot and hard bumpe, or swelling, tearmed, a fellon" (Cotgrave). Another Latin name for it was tagax, "a felon on a man's finger" (Cooper), lit. thievish. One of its Spanish names is padrastro, lit. step-father. I am told that an "agnail" was formerly called a "step-mother" in Yorkshire. This is a good example of the semantic method in etymology (see pp. 99-104).


Some of the above instances show how near to home we can often track a word which at first sight appears to belong to another continent. This is still more strikingly exemplified in the case of Portuguese words, which have an almost uncanny way of pretending to be African or Indian. Some readers will, I think, be surprised to hear that assegai occurs in Chaucer, though in a form not easily recognisable. It is a Berber word which passed through Spanish and Portuguese into French and English. We find Fr. archegaie in the 14th century, azagaie in Rabelais, and the modern form zagaie in Cotgrave, who describes it as "a fashion of slender, long, and long-headed pike, used by the Moorish horsemen." In Mid. English l'archegaie was corrupted by folk-etymology (see p. 115) into lancegay, launcegay, the form used by Chaucer—

"He worth upon his stede gray, And in his hond a launcegay, A long swerd by his syde." (Sir Thopas, l. 40.)

The use of this weapon was prohibited by statute in 1406, hence the early disappearance of the word.

Another "Zulu" word which has travelled a long way is kraal. This is a contracted Dutch form from Port. curral, a sheepfold (cf. Span. corral, a pen, enclosure). Both assegai and kraal were taken to South East Africa by the Portuguese and then adopted by the Boers and Kafirs.[22] Sjambok occurs in 17th-century accounts of India in the form chawbuck. It is a Persian word, spelt chabouk by Moore, in Lalla Rookh. It was adopted by the Portuguese as chabuco, "in the Portuguese India, a whip or scourge"[23] (Vieyra, Port. Dict., 1794). Fetish, an African idol, first occurs in the records of the early navigators, collected and published by Hakluyt and Purchas. It is the Port. feitico, Lat. factitius, artificial, applied by the Portuguese explorers to the graven images of the heathen. The corresponding Old Fr. faitis is rather a complimentary adjective, and everyone remembers the lady in Chaucer who spoke French fairly and fetousli. Palaver, also a travellers' word from the African coast, is Port. palavra, word, speech, Greco-Lat. parabola. It is thus a doublet of parole and parable, and is related to parley. Ayah, an Indian nurse, is Port. aia, nurse, of unknown origin. Caste is Port. casta, pure, and a doublet of chaste. Tank, an Anglo-Indian word of which the meaning has narrowed in this country, is Port. tanque, a pool or cistern, Lat. stagnum, whence Old Fr. estang (etang) and provincial Eng. stank, a dam, or a pond banked round. Cobra is the Portuguese for snake, cognate with Fr. couleuvre, Lat. coluber (see p. 7). We use it as an abbreviation for cobra de capello, hooded snake, the second part of which is identical with Fr. chapeau and cognate with cape, chapel (p. 152), chaplet, a garland, and chaperon, a "protecting" hood. From still further afield than India comes joss, a Chinese god, a corruption of Port. deos, Lat. deus. Even mandarin comes from Portuguese, and not Chinese, but it is an Eastern word, ultimately of Sanskrit origin.

[Page Heading: GORILLA—SILK]

The word gorilla is perhaps African, but more than two thousand years separate its first appearance from its present use. In the 5th or 6th century, B.C., a Carthaginian navigator named Hanno sailed beyond the Pillars of Hercules along the west coast of Africa. He probably followed very much the same route as Sir Richard Dalyngridge and Saxon Hugh when they voyaged with Witta the Viking. He wrote in Punic a record of his adventures, which was received with the incredulity usually accorded to travellers' tales. Among the wonders he encountered were some hairy savages called gorillas. His work was translated into Greek and later on into several European languages, so that the word became familiar to naturalists. In 1847 it was applied to the giant ape, which had recently been described by explorers.

The origin of the word silk is a curious problem. It is usually explained as from Greco-Lat. sericum, a name derived from an Eastern people called the Seres, presumably the Chinese. It appears in Anglo-Saxon as seolc. Now, at that early period, words of Latin origin came to us by the overland route and left traces of their passage. But all the Romance languages use for silk a name derived from Lat. saeta, bristle, and this name has penetrated even into German (Seide) and Dutch (zijde). The derivatives of sericum stand for another material, serge. Nor can it be assumed that the r of the Latin word would have become in English always l and never r. There are races which cannot sound the letter r, but we are not one of them. As the word silk is found also in Old Norse, Swedish, Danish, and Old Slavonian, the natural inference is that it must have reached us along the north of Europe, and, if derived from sericum, it must, in the course of its travels, have passed through a dialect which had no r.


[16] This includes Flemish, spoken in a large part of Belgium and in the North East of France.

[17] Haversack, oat-sack, comes through French from German.

[18] This applies also to some of the clan names, e.g., Macpherson, son of the parson, Macnab, son of the abbot.

[19] My own conviction is that it is identical with Dan. dirik, dirk, a pick-lock. See Dietrich (p. 42). An implement used for opening an enemy may well have been named in this way. Cf. Du. opsteeker (up sticker), "a pick-lock, a great knife, or a dagger" (Sewel, 1727).

[20] "It was a wholly garbled version of what never took place" (Mr Birrell, in the House, 26th Oct. 1911). The bull appears to be a laudable concession to Irish national feeling.

[21] Formerly ferdekin, a derivative of Du. vierde, fourth; cf. farthing, a little fourth.

[22] Kafir (Arab.) means infidel.

[23] Eng. chawbuck is used in connection with the punishment we call the bastinado. This is a corruption of Span. bastonada, "a stroke with a club or staff" (Stevens, 1706). On the other hand, we extend the meaning of drub, the Arabic word for bastinado, to a beating of any kind.



In a sense, all nomenclature, apart from purely scientific language, is popular. But real meanings are often so rapidly obscured that words become mere labels, and cease to call up the image or the poetic idea with which they were first associated. To take a simple instance, how many people realise that the daisy is the "day's eye"?—

"Wele by reson men it calle may The dayeseye or ellis the 'eye of day.'" (CHAUCER, Legend of Good Women, Prol., l. 184.)

In studying that part of our vocabulary which especially illustrates the tendencies shown in popular name-giving, one is struck by the keen observation and imaginative power shown by our far-off ancestors, and the lack of these qualities in later ages.

Perhaps in no part of the language does this appear so clearly as in the names of plants and flowers. The most primitive way of naming a flower is from some observed resemblance, and it is curious to notice the parallelism of this process in various languages. Thus our crowfoot, crane's bill, larkspur, monkshood, snapdragon, are in German Hahnenfuss (cock's foot), Storchschnabel (stork's bill), Rittersporn (knight's spur), Eisenhut (iron hat), Loewenmaul (lion's mouth). I have purposely chosen instances in which the correspondence is not absolute, because examples like Loewenzahn (lion's tooth), dandelion (Fr. dent de lion) may be suspected of being mere translations. I give the names in most general use, but the provincial variants are numerous, though usually of the same type. The French names of the flowers mentioned are still more like the English. The more learned words which sometimes replace the above are, though now felt as mere symbols, of similar origin, e.g., geranium and pelargonium, used for the cultivated crane's bill, are derived from the Greek for crane and stork respectively. So also in chelidonium, whence our celandine or swallow-wort, we have the Greek for swallow.

In the English names of plants we observe various tendencies of the popular imagination. We have the crudeness of cowslip for earlier cowslop, cow-dung, and many old names of unquotable coarseness, the quaintness of Sweet William, lords and ladies, bachelors' buttons, dead men's fingers, and the exquisite poetry of forget-me-not, heart's ease, love in a mist, traveller's joy. There is also a special group named from medicinal properties, such as feverfew, a doublet of febrifuge, and tansy, Fr. tanaisie, from Greco-Lat. athanasia, immortality. We may compare the learned saxifrage, stone-breaker, of which the Spanish doublet is sassafras. The German name is Steinbrech.

There must have been a time when a simple instinct for poetry was possessed by all nations, as it still is by uncivilised races and children. Among European nations this instinct appears to be dead for ever. We can name neither a mountain nor a flower. Our Mount Costigan, Mount Perry, Mount William cut a sorry figure beside the peaks of the Bernese Oberland, the Monk, the Maiden, the Storm Pike, the Dark Eagle Pike.[24] Occasionally a race which is accidentally brought into closer contact with nature may have a happy inspiration, such as the Drakensberg (dragon's mountain) or Weenen[25] (weeping) of the old voortrekkers. But the Cliff of the Falling Flowers, the name of a precipice over which the Korean queens cast themselves to escape dishonour, represents an imaginative realm which is closed to us.[26] The botanist who describes a new flower hastens to join the company of Messrs Dahl, Fuchs, Lobel, Magnol and Wistar, while fresh varieties are used to immortalise a florist and his family.

[Page Heading: NAMES OF FRUITS]

The names of fruits, perhaps because they lend themselves less easily to imaginative treatment, are even duller than modern names of flowers. The only English names are the apple and the berry. New fruits either retained their foreign names (cherry, peach, pear, quince) or were violently converted into apples or berries, usually the former. This practice is common to the European languages, the apple being regarded as the typical fruit. Thus the orange is usually called in North Germany Apfelsine, apple of China, with which we may compare our "China orange." In South Germany it was called Pomeranze (now used especially of the Seville orange), from Ital. pomo, apple, arancia, orange. Fr. orange is folk-etymology (or, gold) for *arange, from Arab. narandj, whence Span. naranja. Melon is simply the Greek for "apple," and has also given us marmalade, which comes, through French, from Port. marmelada, quince jam, a derivative of Greco-Lat. melimelum, quince, lit. honey-apple. Pine-apple meant "fir-cone" as late as the 17th century, as Fr. pomme de pin still does.[27] The fruit was named from its shape, which closely resembles that of a fir-cone. Pomegranate means "apple with seeds." We also find the apricot, lemon (pomcitron), peach, and quince all described as apples.

At least one fruit, the greengage, is named from a person, Sir William Gage, a gentleman of Suffolk, who popularised its cultivation early in the 18th century. It happens that the French name of the fruit, reine-claude (pronounced glaude), is also personal, from the wife of Francis I.

Animal nomenclature shows some strange vagaries. The resemblance of the hippopotamus, lit. river-horse, to the horse, hardly extends beyond their common possession of four legs.[28] The lion would hardly recognise himself in the ant-lion or the sea-lion, still less in the chameleon, lit. earth-lion, the first element of which occurs also in camomile, earth-apple. The guinea-pig is not a pig, nor does it come from Guinea (see p. 51). Porcupine means "spiny pig." It has an extraordinary number of early variants, and Shakespeare wrote it porpentine. One Mid. English form was porkpoint. The French name has hesitated between spine and spike. The modern form is porc-epic, but Palsgrave has "porkepyn a beest, porc espin." Porpoise is from Old Fr. porpeis, for porc peis (Lat. porcus piscis), pig-fish. The modern French name is marsouin, from Ger. Meerschwein, sea-pig; cf. the name sea-hog, formerly used in English. Old Fr. peis survives also in grampus, Anglo-Fr. grampais for grand peis, big fish, but the usual Old French word is craspeis or graspeis, fat fish.

The caterpillar seems to have suggested in turn a cat and a dog. Our word is corrupted by folk-etymology from Old Fr. chatepeleuse, "a corne-devouring mite, or weevell" (Cotgrave). This probably means "woolly cat," just as a common species is popularly called woolly bear, but it was understood as being connected with the French verb peler, "to pill, pare, barke, unrinde, unskin" (Cotgrave). The modern French name for the caterpillar is chenille, a derivative of chien, dog. It has also been applied to a fabric of a woolly nature; cf. the botanical catkin, which is in French chaton, kitten.


Some animals bear nicknames. Dotterel means "dotard," and dodo is from the Port. doudo, mad. Ferret is from Fr. furet, a diminutive from Lat. fur, thief. Shark was used of a sharper or greedy parasite before it was applied to the fish. This, in the records of the Elizabethan voyagers, is more often called by its Spanish name tiburon, whence Cape Tiburon, in Haiti. The origin of shark is unknown, but it appears to be identical with shirk, for which we find earlier sherk. We find Ital. scrocco (whence Fr. escroc), Ger. Schurke, Du. schurk, rascal, all rendered "shark" in early dictionaries, but the relationship of these words is not clear. The palmer, i.e. pilgrim, worm is so called from his wandering habits. Ortolan, the name given by Tudor cooks to the garden bunting, means "gardener" (Lat. hortus, garden). It comes to us through French from Ital. ortolano, "a gardener, an orchard keeper. Also a kinde of daintie birde in Italie, some take it to be the linnet" (Florio). We may compare Fr. bouvreuil, bull-finch, a diminutive of bouvier, ox-herd. This is called in German Dompfaffe, a contemptuous name for a cathedral canon. Fr. moineau, sparrow, is a diminutive of moine, monk. The wagtail is called in French lavandiere, laundress, from the up and down motion of its tail suggesting the washerwoman's beetle, and bergeronnette, little shepherdess, from its habit of following the sheep. Adjutant, the nickname of the solemn Indian stork, is clearly due to Mr Atkins, and the secretary bird is so named because some of his head feathers suggest a quill pen behind an ear.

The converse process of people being nicknamed from animals is also common and the metaphor is usually pretty obvious. An interesting case is shrew, a libel on a very inoffensive little animal, the shrew-mouse, Anglo-Sax. scrēawa. Cooper describes mus araneus as "a kinde of mise called a shrew, which if he go over a beastes backe he shall be lame in the chyne; if he byte it swelleth to the heart and the beast dyeth." This "information" is derived from Pliny, but the superstition is found in Greek. The epithet was, up to Shakespeare's time, applied indifferently to both sexes. From shrew is derived shrewd, earlier shrewed,[29] the meaning of which has become much milder than when Henry VIII. said to Cranmer—

"The common voice I see is verified Of thee which says, 'Do my lord of Canterbury A shrewd turn, and he's your friend for ever.'" (Henry VIII., v. 2.)

The title Dauphin, lit. dolphin, commemorates the absorption into the French monarchy, in 1349, of the lordship of Dauphine, the cognisance of which was three dolphins.

The application of animals' names to diseases is a familiar phenomenon, e.g., cancer (and canker), crab, and lupus, wolf. To this class belongs mulligrubs, for which we find in the 17th century also mouldy grubs. Its oldest meaning is stomach-ache, still given in Hotten's Slang Dictionary (1864). Mully is still used in dialect for mouldy, earthy, and grub was once the regular word for worm. The Latin name for the same discomfort was verminatio, from vermis, a worm. For the later transition of meaning we may compare megrims, from Fr. migraine, head-ache, Greco-Lat. hemicrania, lit. half-skull, because supposed to affect one side only of the head.

A good many names of plants and animals have a religious origin. Hollyhock is for holy hock, from Anglo-Sax. hoc, mallow: for the pronunciation cf. holiday. Halibut means holy butt, the latter word being an old name for flat fish; for this form of holy cf. halidom. Lady in names of flowers such as lady's bedstraw, lady's garter, lady's slipper, is for Our Lady. So also in lady-bird, called in French bete a bon Dieu and in German Marienkaefer, Mary's beetle. Here may be mentioned samphire, from Old Fr. herbe de Saint Pierre, "sampire, crestmarin" (Cotgrave). The filbert, earlier philibert, is named from St Philibert, the nut being ripe by St Philibert's day (22nd Aug.). We may compare Ger. Lambertsnuss, filbert, originally "Lombard nut," but popularly associated with St Lambert's day (17th Sept.).


The application of baptismal names to animals is a very general practice, though the reason for the selection of the particular name is not always clear. The most famous of such names is Renard the Fox. The Old French for fox is goupil, a derivative of Lat. vulpes, fox. The hero of the great beast epic of the Middle Ages is Renard le goupil, and the fact that renard now completely supplanted goupil shows how popular the Renard legends must have been. Renard is from Old High Ger. regin-hart, strong in counsel; cf. our names Reginald and Reynold, and Scot. Ronald, of Norse origin. From the same source come Chantecler, lit. sing-clear, the cock, and Partlet, the hen, while Bruin, the bear, lit. "brown," is from the Dutch version of the epic. In the Low German version, Reinke de Vos, the ape's name is Moneke, a diminutive corresponding to Ital. monicchio, "a pugge, a munkie, an ape" (Florio), the earlier history of which is much disputed. The cat was called Tibert or Theobald

MERCUTIO. "Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?" TYBALT. "What wouldst thou have with me?" MERCUTIO. "Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives." (Romeo and Juliet, iii. 1.)

The fact that the donkey was at one time regularly called Cuddy made Cuthbert for a long period unpopular as a baptismal name. He is now often called Neddy. The hare was called Wat (Walter) in Tudor times. In the Roman de Renard he is Couard, whence coward, a derivative of Old Fr. coue (queue), tail, from Lat. cauda. The idea is that of the tail between the legs, so that the name is etymologically not very appropriate to the hare. Parrot, for earlier perrot, means "little Peter." The extension Poll parrot is thus a kind of hermaphrodite. Fr. pierrot is still used for the sparrow. The family name Perrot is sometimes a nickname, "the chatterer," but can also mean literally "little Peter," just as Emmot means "little Emma," and Marriot "little Mary." Petrel is of cognate origin, with an allusion to St Peter's walking upon the sea; cf. its German name, Sankt Peters Vogel. Sailors call the petrel Mother Carey's chicken, probably a nautical corruption of some old Spanish or Italian name. But, in spite of ingenious guesses, this lady's genealogy remains as obscure as that of Davy Jones or the Jolly Roger.

[Page Heading: NAMES OF BIRDS]

Robin has practically replaced red-breast. The martin is in French martinet, and the name may have been given in allusion to the southward flight of this swallow about Martinmas; but the king-fisher, not a migrant bird, is called martin-pecheur, formerly also martinet pecheur or oiseau de Saint-Martin, so that martin may be due to some other association. Sometimes the double name survives. We no longer say Philip sparrow, but Jack ass, Jack daw, Jenny wren, Tom tit (see p. 123), and the inclusive Dicky bird, are still familiar. With these we may compare Hob (i.e. Robert) goblin. Madge owl, or simply Madge, was once common. For Mag pie we find also various diminutives—

"Augurs, and understood relations, have By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth The secret'st man of blood." (Macbeth, iii. 4.)

Cotgrave has pie, "a pye, pyannat, meggatapie." In Old French it was also called jaquette, "a proper name for a woman; also, a piannat, or megatapie" (Cotgrave).

The connection of this word, Fr. pie, Lat. pica, with the comestible pie is uncertain, but it seems likely that the magpie's habit of collecting miscellaneous trifles caused its name to be given to a dish of uncertain constituents. It is a curious coincidence that the obsolete chuet or chewet meant both a round pie and a jackdaw.[30] It is uncertain in which of the two senses Prince Hal applies the name to Falstaff (1 Henry IV., v. 1). It comes from Fr. chouette, screech-owl, which formerly meant also "a chough, daw, jack-daw" (Cotgrave).

A piebald horse is one balled like a magpie. Ball is a Celtic word for a white mark, especially on the forehead; hence the tavern sign of the Baldfaced Stag. Our adjective bald is thus a past participle.

Things are often named from animals. Crane, kite, donkey-engine, monkey-wrench, pig-iron, etc., are simple cases. The crane picture is so striking that we are not surprised to find it literally reproduced in many other languages. The toy called a kite is in French cerf volant, flying stag, a name also applied to the stag-beetle, and in Ger. Drachen, dragon. It is natural that terrifying names should have been given to early fire-arms. Many of these, e.g., basilisk, serpent, falconet, saker (from Fr. sacre, a kind of hawk), are obsolete—

"The cannon, blunderbuss, and saker, He was th' inventor of and maker." (Hudibras, i. 2.)

More familiar is culverin, Fr. couleuvrine, a derivative of couleuvre, adder, Lat. coluber

"And thou hast talk'd Of sallies and retires, of trenches, tents, Of palisadoes, frontiers, parapets, Of basilisks, of cannon, culverin." (1 Henry IV., ii. 3.)

One name for a hand-gun was dragon, whence our dragoon, originally applied to a kind of mounted infantry or carbineers. Musket, like saker (v.s.), was the name of a hawk. Mistress Ford uses it playfully to her page—

"How now, my eyas[31]-musket, what news with you?" (Merry Wives, iii. 3.)

But the hawk was so nicknamed from its small size. Fr. mousquet, now replaced in the hawk sense by emouchet, is from Ital. moschetto, a diminutive from Lat. musca, fly. Thus mosquito (Spanish) and musket are doublets.

Porcelain comes, through French, from Ital. porcellana, "a kinde of fine earth called porcelane, whereof they make fine china dishes, called porcellan dishes" (Florio). This is, however, a transferred meaning, porcellana being the name of a particularly glossy shell called the "Venus shell." It is a derivative of Lat. porcus, pig. Easel comes, with many other painters' terms, from Holland. It is Du. ezel, ass, which, like Ger. Esel, comes from Lat. asinus. For its metaphorical application we may compare Fr. chevalet, easel, lit. "little horse," and Eng. "clothes-horse."


Objects often bear the names of individuals. Such are albert chain, brougham, victoria, wellington boot. Some elderly people can remember ladies wearing a red blouse called a garibaldi.[32] Sometimes an inventor is immortalised, e.g., mackintosh and shrapnel, both due to 19th-century inventors. The more recent maxim is named from one who, according to the late Lord Salisbury, has saved many of his fellow-men from dying of old age. Other benefactors are commemorated in derringer, first recorded in Bret Harte, and bowie, which occurs in Dickens' American Notes. Sandwich and spencer are coupled in an old rime—

"Two noble earls, whom, if I quote, Some folks might call me sinner; The one invented half a coat, The other half a dinner."

An Earl Spencer (1782-1845) made a short overcoat fashionable for some time. An Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792) invented a form of light refreshment which enabled him to take a meal without leaving the gaming table. It does not appear that Billy Cock is to be classed with the above, or with Chesterfield, Chippendale & Co. The New English Dictionary quotes (from 1721) a description of the Oxford "blood" in his "bully-cocked hat," worn aggressively on one side. Pinchbeck was a London watchmaker (fl. c. 1700), and doily is from Doyley, a linen-draper of the same period. Etienne de Silhouette was French finance minister in 1759, but the application of his name to a black profile portrait is variously explained. Negus was first brewed in Queen Anne's reign by Colonel Francis Negus.

The first orrery was constructed by the Earl of Orrery (c. 1700). Galvani and Volta were Italian scientists of the 18th century. Mesmer was a German physician of the same period. Nicotine is named from Jean Nicot, French ambassador at Lisbon, who sent some tobacco plants to Catherine de Medicis in 1560. He also compiled the first Old French dictionary. The gallows-shaped contrivance called a derrick perpetuates the name of a famous hangman who officiated in London about 1600. It is a Dutch name, identical with Dietrich, Theodoric, and Dirk (Hatteraick). Conversely the Fr. potence, gallows, meant originally a bracket or support, Lat. potentia, power. The origin of darbies, handcuffs, is unknown, but the line—

"To bind such babes in father Derbies bands," (GASCOIGNE, The Steel Glass, 1576.)

suggests connection with some eminent gaoler or thief-taker.


Occasionally a verb is formed from a proper name. On the model of tantalise, from the punishment of Tantalus, we have bowdlerise, from Bowdler, who published an expurgated "family Shakespeare" in 1818; cf. macadamise. Burke and boycott commemorate a scoundrel and a victim. The latter word, from the treatment of Captain Boycott of Co. Mayo in 1880, seems to have supplied a want, for Fr. boycotter and Ger. boycottieren have become every-day words. Burke was hanged at Edinburgh in 1829 for murdering people by suffocation in order to dispose of their bodies to medical schools. We now use the verb only of "stifling" discussion, but in the Ingoldsby Legends it still has the original sense—

"But, when beat on his knees, That confounded De Guise Came behind with the 'fogle' that caused all this breeze, Whipp'd it tight round his neck, and, when backward he'd jerk'd him, The rest of the rascals jump'd on him and Burk'd him." (The Tragedy.)

Jarvey, the slang name for a hackney coachman, especially in Ireland, was in the 18th century Jervis or Jarvis, but history is silent as to this modern Jehu. A pasquinade was originally an anonymous lampoon affixed to a statue of a gladiator which still stands in Rome. The statue is said to have been nicknamed from a scandal-loving cobbler named Pasquino. Florio has pasquino, "a statue in Rome on whom all libels, railings, detractions, and satirical invectives are fathered." Pamphlet is an extended use of Old Fr. Pamphilet, the name of a Latin poem by one Pamphilus which was popular in the Middle Ages. The suffix -et was often used in this way, e.g., the translation of AEsop's fables by Marie de France was called Ysopet, and Cato's moral maxims had the title Catonet, or Parvus Cato. Modern Fr. pamphlet, borrowed back from English, has always the sense of polemical writing. In Eng. libel, lit. "little book," we see a similar restriction of meaning. A three-quarter portrait of fixed dimensions is called a kitcat

"It is not easy to see why he should have chosen to produce a replica, or rather a kitcat." (Journal of Education, Oct. 1911.)

The name comes from the portraits of members of the Kitcat Club, painted by Kneller. Kit Kat, Christopher Kat, was a pastrycook at whose shop the club used to dine.

Implements and domestic objects sometimes bear christian names. We may mention spinning-jenny, and the innumerable meanings of jack. Davit, earlier daviot, is a diminutive of David. Fr. davier, formerly daviet, is used of several mechanical contrivances, including a pick-lock. A kind of davit is called in German Juette, a diminutive of Judith. The implement by which the burglar earns his daily bread is now called a jemmy, but in the 17th century we also find bess and betty. The French name is rossignol, nightingale. The German burglar calls it Dietrich, Peterchen, or Klaus, and the contracted forms of the first name, dyrk and dirk, have passed into Swedish and Danish with the same meaning. In Italian a pick-lock is called grimaldello, a diminutive of the name Grimaldo.

[Page Heading: GRIMALKIN—JUG]

A kitchen wench was once called a malkin

"The kitchen malkin pins Her richest lockram[33] 'bout her reechy neck, Clamb'ring the walls to eye him." (Coriolanus, ii. 1.)

This is a diminutive of Matilda or Mary, possibly of both. Grimalkin, applied to a fiend in the shape of a cat, is perhaps for gray malkin

"I come, Graymalkin." (Macbeth, i. 1.)

The name malkin was transferred from the maid to the mop. Cotgrave has escouillon (ecouvillon), "a wispe, or dish-clowt; a maukin, or drag, to cleanse, or sweepe an oven." Ecouvillon is a derivative of Lat. scopa, broom. Now another French word, which means both "kitchen servant" and "dish-clout," is souillon, from souiller, to soil. What share each of these words has in Eng. scullion is hard to say. The only thing certain is that scullion is not originally related to scullery, Old Fr. escuelerie, a collective from Old Fr. escuelle (ecuelle), dish, Lat. scutella.

A doll was formerly called a baby or puppet. It is the abbreviation of Dorothy, for we find it called a doroty in Scottish. We may compare Fr. marionnette, a double diminutive of Mary, explained by Cotgrave as "little Marian or Mal; also, a puppet." Little Mary, in another sense, has been recently, but perhaps definitely, adopted into our language. Another old name for doll is mammet. Capulet uses it contemptuously to his daughter—

"And then to have a wretched puling fool, A whining mammet, in her fortune's tender, To answer: 'I'll not wed,'—'I cannot love.'" (Romeo and Juliet, iii. 5.)

Its earlier form is maumet, meaning "idol," and it is a contraction of Mahomet.

The derivation of jug is not capable of proof, but a 17th-century etymologist regards it as identical with the female name Jug,[34] for Joan or Jane. This is supported by the fact that jack was used in a similar sense—

"That there's wrath and despair in the jolly black-jack, And the seven deadly sins in a flagon of sack." (Lady of the Lake, vi. 5.)

We may also compare toby jug and demi-john. The latter word is in French dame-jeanne, but both forms are possibly due to folk-etymology. A coat of mail was called in English a jack and in French jaque, "a jack, or coat of maile" (Cotgrave); hence the diminutive jacket. The German miners gave to an ore which they considered useless the name kobalt, from kobold, a goblin, gnome. This has given Eng. cobalt. Much later is the similarly formed nickel, a diminutive of Nicholas. It comes to us from Sweden, but appears earliest in the German compound Kupfernickel, copper nickel. Apparently nickel here means something like goblin; cf. Old Nick and, probably, the dickens

"I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of.—What do you call your knight's name, sirrah?" (Merry Wives, iii. 2.)

Pantaloons come, via France, from Venice. A great many Venetians bore the name of Pantaleone, one of their favourite saints. Hence the application of the name to the characteristic Venetian hose. The "lean and slippered pantaloon" was originally one of the stock characters of the old Italian comedy. Torriano has pantalone, "a pantalone, a covetous and yet amorous old dotard, properly applyed in comedies unto a Venetian." Knickerbockers take their name from Diedrich Knickerbocker, the pseudonym under which Washington Irving wrote his History of Old New York, in which the early Dutch inhabitants are depicted in baggy knee-breeches.


Certain christian names are curiously associated with stupidity. In modern English we speak of a silly Johnny, while the Germans say ein dummer Peter, or Michel, and French uses Colas (Nicolas), Nicodeme and Claude, the reason for the selection of the name not always being known. English has, or had, in the sense of "fool," the words ninny, nickum, noddy, zany. Ninny is for Innocent, "Innocent, Ninny, a proper name for a man" (Cotgrave). With this we may compare French benet (i.e. Benedict), "a simple, plaine, doltish fellow; a noddy peake, a ninny hammer, a peagoose, a coxe, a silly companion" (Cotgrave). Nickum and noddy are probably for Nicodemus or Nicholas, both of which are used in French for a fool—

"'But there's another chance for you,' said Mr Boffin, smiling still. 'Do you like the name of Nicodemus? Think it over. Nick or Noddy.'" (Our Mutual Friend, Ch. 5.)

Noddy-peak, ninny-hammer, nickumpoop, now nincompoop, seem to be arbitrary elaborations. Zany, formerly a conjuror's assistant, is zanni (see p. 143), an Italian diminutive of Giovanni, John. With the degeneration of Innocent and Benedict we may compare Fr. cretin, idiot, an Alpine patois form of chretien, Christian, and Eng. silly, which once meant blessed, a sense preserved by its German cognate selig. Dunce is a libel on the disciples of the great medieval schoolman John Duns Scotus, born at Duns in Berwickshire.

Dandy is Scottish for Andrew, e.g., Dandie Dinmont (Guy Mannering). Dago, now usually applied to Italians, was used by the Elizabethans, in its original form Diego, of the Spaniards. The derivation of guy and bobby (peeler) is well known. Jockey is a diminutive of the north country Jock, for Jack. The history of jackanapes is obscure. The earliest record of the name is in a satirical song on the unpopular William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, who was beheaded at sea in 1450. He is called Jack Napes, the allusion being apparently to his badge, an ape's clog and chain. But there also seems to be association with Naples; cf. fustian-anapes for Naples fustian. A poem of the 15th century mentions among our imports from Italy—

"Apes and japes and marmusettes tayled."

Jilt was once a stronger epithet than at present. It is for earlier jillet, which is a diminutive of Jill, the companion of Jack. Jill, again, is short for Gillian, i.e. Juliana, so that jilt is a doublet of Shakespeare's sweetest heroine. Termagant, like shrew (p. 34), was formerly used of both sexes, e.g., by Sir John Falstaff—

"'Twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot (Douglas) had paid me scot and lot too." (1 Henry IV., v. 4.)

In its oldest sense of a Saracen god it regularly occurs with Mahound (Mahomet)—

"Marsilies fait porter un livre avant: La lei i fut Mahum e Tervagan."[35] (Chanson de Roland, l. 610.)

Ariosto has Trivigante. Being introduced into the medieval drama, the name became synonymous with a stage fury—

"I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant." (Hamlet, iii. 2.)

The origin of the word is unknown, but its sense development is strangely different from that of Mahomet (p. 43).


[24] But Finsteraarhorn is perhaps from the river Aar, not from Aar, eagle.

[25] A place where a number of settlers were massacred by the Zulus.

[26] "Two mountains near Dublin, which we, keeping in the grocery line, have called the Great and the Little Sugarloaf, are named in Irish the Golden Spears."—(Trench, On the Study of Words.)

[27] The French name for the fruit is ananas, a Brazilian word. A vegetarian friend of the writer, misled by the superficial likeness of this word to banana, once petrified a Belgian waiter by ordering half a dozen for his lunch.

[28] A reader calls my attention to the fact that, when the hippopotamus is almost completely submerged, the pointed ears, prominent eyes, and large nostrils are grotesquely suggestive of a horse's head. This I have recently verified at the Zoo.

[29] For the rather illogical formation, cf. dogged from dog.

[30] Connection has even been suggested between haggis and Fr. agasse, "a pie, piannet, or magatapie" (Cotgrave). Haggis, now regarded as Scottish, was once a common word in English. Palsgrave has haggas, a podyng, "caliette (caillette) de mouton," i.e., sheep's stomach.

[31] For eyas see p. 114.

[32] To the same period belongs the colour magenta, from the victory of the French over the Austrians at Magenta in 1859.

[33] For lockram, see p. 48.

[34] Jehannette, "Jug, or Jinny" (Cotgrave). For strange perversions of baptismal names see Chap. XII. It is possible that the rather uncommon family name Juggins is of the same origin.

[35] "Marsil has a book brought forward: the law of Mahomet and Termagant was in it."



A very large number of wares are named from the places from which they come. This is especially common in the case of woven fabrics, and the origin is often obvious, e.g., arras, cashmere (by folk-etymology, kerseymere), damask, holland. The following are perhaps not all so evident—frieze from Friesland[36]; fustian, Old Fr. fustaine (futaine), from Fustat, a suburb of Cairo; muslin, Fr. mousseline, from Mosul in Kurdistan; shalloon from Chalons-sur-Marne; lawn from Laon; jean, formerly jane, from Genoa (French Genes[37]); cambric from Kamerijk, the Dutch name of Cambrai (cf. the obsolete dornick, from the Dutch name of Tournay); tartan from the Tartars (properly Tatars), used vaguely for Orientals; sarcenet from the Saracens; sendal, ultimately from India (cf. Greco-Lat. sindon, Indian cloth); tabby, Old Fr. atabis, from the name of a suburb of Bagdad, formerly used of a kind of silk, but now of a cat marked something like the material in question.

Brittany used to be famous for hempen fabrics, and the villages of Locrenan and Daoulas gave their names to lockram (see quotation from Coriolanus, p. 42) and dowlas

Hostess. You owe me money, Sir John; and now you pick a quarrel to beguile me of it: I bought you a dozen of shirts to your back.

Falstaff. Dowlas, filthy dowlas; I have given them away to bakers' wives, and they have made bolters of them. (1 Henry IV., iii. 3.)

Duffel is a place near Antwerp—

"And let it be of duffil gray, As warm a cloak as man can sell." (WORDSWORTH, Alice Fell.)

and Worstead is in Norfolk. Of other commodities majolica comes from Majorca, called in Spanish Mallorca, and in medieval Latin Majolica; bronze from Brundusium (Brindisi), delf from Delft, the magnet from Magnesia, the shallot, Fr. echalote, in Old French also escalogne, whence archaic Eng. scallion, from Ascalon; the sardine from Sardinia. A milliner, formerly milaner, dealt in goods from Milan. Cravat dates from the Thirty Years' War, in which the Croats, earlier Cravats, played a part. Ermine is in medieval Latin mus Armenius, Armenian mouse, but the name perhaps comes, through Fr. hermine, from Old High Ger. harmo, weasel. Buncombe, more usually bunkum, is the name of a county in North Carolina. To make a speech "for Buncombe" means, in American politics, to show your constituents that you are doing your best for your L400 a year or its American equivalent. Cf. Billingsgate and Limehouse.

The adjective spruce was formerly pruce and meant Prussia. Todd quotes from Holinshed—

"Sir Edward Howard then admirall, and with him Sir Thomas Parre in doubletts of crimsin velvett, etc., were apparelled after the fashion of Prussia or Spruce."

Of similar origin are spruce-leather, spruce-beer, and the spruce-fir, of which Evelyn says—

"Those from Prussia (which we call spruce) and Norway are the best."

[Page Heading: BEZANT—MAZURKA]

Among coins the bezant comes from Byzantium, the florin from Florence, and Shylock's ducat, chiefly a Venetian coin, from the ducato d'Apuglia, the Duchy of Apulia, where it was first coined in the 12th century. The dollar is the Low Ger. daler, for Ger. Taler, originally called a Joachimstaler, from the silver-mine of Joachimstal, "Joachim's dale," in Bohemia. Cotgrave registers a curious Old French perversion jocondale, "a daller, a piece of money worth about 3s. sterl." Some fruits may also be mentioned, e.g., the damson from Damascus, through Old Fr. damaisine, "a damascene or damsen plum" (Cotgrave); the currant from Corinth, and the peach, Fr. peche, from Vulgar Lat. pessica, for Persica.

A polony was originally a Bolonian sausage, from Bologna. Parchment, Fr. parchemin, is the adjective pergamenus, from Pergamus, in Asia Minor. Spaniel is the Old Fr. espagneul (epagneul), lit. Spanish. We have the adjective Moorish in morris, or morrice, pike

"He that sets up his rest to do more exploits with his mace than a morris pike." (Comedy of Errors, iv. 3.)

In morris dance, Fr. danse mauresque, the same adjective is used with something of the vagueness to be noticed in connection with India and Turkey (p. 52). Shakespeare uses the Spanish form—

"I have seen him Caper upright, like to a wild morisco, Shaking the bloody darts as he his bells." (2 Henry VI., iii. 1.)

Other "local" dances are the polka, which means Polish woman, mazurka, woman of Mazuria, and the obsolete polonaise, lit. Polish, cracovienne, from Cracow, and varsovienne, from Warsaw. The tarantella, like the tarantula spider, takes its name from Taranto, in Italy. The tune of the dance is said to have been originally employed as a cure for the lethargy caused by the bite of the spider. Florio has tarantola, "a serpent called an eft or an evet. Some take it to be a flye whose sting is perillous and deadly, and nothing but divers sounds of musicke can cure the patient."

The town of Troyes has given its name to troy weight. The armourers of Bilbao, in Spain, made swords of such perfect temper that they could be bent point to hilt. Hence Falstaff describes himself in the buck-basket as—

"Compassed, like a good bilbo, in the circumference of a peck, hilt to point, heel to head." (Merry Wives, iii. 5.)

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