Tuesday, May 31, 2011


This form of our "negative reply" dates to the early 13th century from the Old English adverb na ("never, "), which came from ne + a ("not, no" + "ever"). Both combined forms ultimately derive from Proto-Indo-European: ne from *ne- ("no, not") and a from *aiw- ("vital force, life, long life, eternity"). *Aiw- is also the forebear of aye ("assent"). The adjective no meaning "not any" dates to the 1200's and comes from Old English nan, the forebear of none.

As English speakers, yes and no are a basic and fundamental part of language. Actually, in every language the ability to express agreement and disagreement are basic and fundamental, but not every system is as simplistic as ours. Chinese, for example, doesn't really have a word for yes and no word for no. Instead, speakers echo the question with their answer. For example: Shi bu shi? asks "Is it?", the answer is either Shi ("It is") or Bu shi ("It isn't"). It is also possible for a language to have multiple versions of yes and no that are used in different contexts. In Middle English yea, nay, yes, and no were all used. Yea and nay answered questions that were framed positively ("Are you coming?") while yes and no answered negatively framed questions ("Are you not coming?").

Monday, May 30, 2011


Avoirdupois \av-uhr-duh-POIZ\ or \AV-uhr-duh-poiz\ , noun;
1. Avoirdupois weight, a system of weights based on a pound containing 16 ounces or 7,000 grains (453.59 grams)
2. Weight; heaviness; as, a person of much avoirdupois

This word dates to the 1650's as a misspelling of Middle English avoir-de-peise which dates to the 1300's. Originally it derives from Old French avoir de pois ("goods of weight") from aveir + peis ("property, goods" + "weight"). Peis comes from Latin pensum, the neuter of pendere ("to weigh") from Proto-Indo-European *(s)pen(d)- ("to pull, stretch").
By the early 16th century avoirdupois was the standard system of weights used in England for all goods except precious metals, precious stones, and medicine. Eventually it was partially replaced by the International System of Units, but some remnants are still in daily use (i.e. the stone is 14lbs). It is still the system of weights (mass) we use in the United States based on the pound made up of 16 ounces.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Monday, May 30
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com 

Sunday, May 29, 2011


Understand \uhn-der-STAND\ verb;

The origin of understand is Old English understandan. It meant "comprehend, grasp the idea of," but was probably literally "stand in the midst of" from under + standan ("stand"). In this context, under doesn't mean "beneath" like it usually would. This under likely comes from Old English under from Proto-Indo-European *nter- ("between, among").
However, that interpretation is up for debate. Some say that the prefix under and the preposition under are the same word with different meanings. As a prefix the word seems to have been lost in time, but similar Old English forms carried the same sense of "among" rather than "beneath." Expressions like under these circumstances carry that sense into Modern English.
Other interpretations are that the sense is really "be close to" like Greek epistamai (literally "I stand upon," actually "I know how, I know") or "stand before" like German verstehen ("understand").

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Vertiginous \vur-TIJ-uh-nuhs\ , adjective;
1. Affected with vertigo; giddy; dizzy
2. Causing or tending to cause dizziness
3. Turning round; whirling; revolving
4. Inclined to change quickly or frequently; inconstant

This word dates to the 1600's from French vertigineux, which derives from Latin vertiginosus ("suffering from dizziness"). Vertiginosus comes from Latin vertigo (originally "a whirling or spinning movement," later "dizziness") from vertere ("to turn") which is, of course, the forebear of vertigo.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Saturday, May 28
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com 

Friday, May 27, 2011


Usufruct \YOO-zoo-fruhkt\ or \YOO-soo-fruhkt\ or \YOOZ-yoo-fruhkt\ or \YOOS-yoo-fruhkt\, noun;
1. Roman and Civil Law: The right of enjoying all the advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another, as far as is compatible with the substance of the thing not being destroyed or injured

This word dates to the 1610's from Late Latin usufructus, which is an elision of usus et fructus ("use and enjoyment"). Usus means "use" and fructus literally means "fruit," but it actually conveys a sense of "enjoyment".

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Allege \uh-LEJ\ , verb;
1. To assert without proof
2. To declare with positiveness; affirm; assert
3. To declare before a court or elsewhere, as if under oath

This word dates to the 1300's and is taken from two French words. Anglo-French aleger provided the form, but Old French eslegier provided the definition: "aquit, clear of charges in a lawsuit." Eslegier derives from Latin ex- + litigare ("out of" + "bring suit"). Somewhere along the way it acquired the meaning of French alléguire, which comes from Latin allegare ("send for, the bring forth, name, produce in evidence") from ad- + legare ("to" + "to depute, send").

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Wretch \rech\ , noun;
1. A deplorably unfortunate or unhappy person
2. A person of despicable or base character

The origin of wretch is Old English wrecca ("wretch, stranger, exile") from Proto-Germanic *wrakjan. Wrecca is related to Old English wreccan ("to drive out, punish"), which is the forebear of wreak. The meaning "vile, despicable person" developed in Old English as a reflection of the sorry state of an outcast.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Prink \PRINGK\ , transitive verb;
1. To dress up; to deck for show
intransitive verb;
1. To dress or arrange oneself for show; to primp
2. To wink, give a wink, or blink
1. A person who takes great care over his or her appearance
2. An act of adjusting the appearance or making smart; a prinking

The Oxford English Dictionary says this word dates to around 1330 and is probably a variation of prank ("to dress in a bright, or ostentatious manner"). But, that seems problematic since no version of prank is attested before 1440. There's another prink that is a noun meaning "a blink or twinkling of the eye; a moment, an instant." It originated in Old English and it probably a variant of prick. Prick does appear to be an older word than prink because several Germanic languages have cognates or words of similar in form. How exactly a word meaning "to poke holes" turned into prink is open to interpretation, but there may have been some influence from pink or primp along the way.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Tuesday, May 24
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com 

Monday, May 23, 2011


Witty \WIT-ee\ , adjective;
1. Possessing wit in speech or writing; amusingly clever in perception and expression
2. Characterized by wit
3. British dialect: Intelligent; clever

The origin of witty is Old English wittig ("clever, wise") from wit + -y ("intellect" + "full of characterized by"). Old English wit is the forebear of the English noun wit, although the more common Old English form was gewit from Proto-Germanic *witjan. The Proto-Indo-European source was *woid-, *weid-, or *wid- which meant "to see" or metaphorically "to know." The verb wit comes from a slightly different but related Old English word, witan ("to know").

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Slaver \SLAV-uhr\ or \SLAY-vuhr\ , intransitive verb;
1. To slobber; to drool
1. Saliva drooling from the mouth

This word dates to the early 14th century from Old Norse slafra ("to slaver") and it may be imitative in origin. Slobber is a little older (1400's) and is also of imitative origin, as are Frisian slobberje, Middle Late German slubberen, and Middle Dutch overslubberen, and more.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Sunday, May 22
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com 

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Memento \muh-MEN-toh\ , noun;
1. An object or item that serves to remind one of a person, past event, etc.; keepsake; souvenir
2. Anything serving as a reminder or warning
3. Initial capital letters, italics: Roman Catholic Church: Either of two prayers in the canon of the mass, one for persons living and the other for persons dead

Memento dates to the 1400's and is taken from 'Palm cxxxi of the Canon of the Mass.' It is the from the first word in the canon, which was in Latin. The canon talks specifically about remembering and commemorating the dead, but Latin memento more broadly means "remember." It is the imperative of meminisse ("to remember"), which is a reduplicated form related to mens ("mind"). In English, the meaning "reminder, warning" dates to the 1580's and "keepsake" is first attested in 1768.
The movie came out in 2000 (source)

Friday, May 20, 2011


Foofaraw \FOO-fuh-raw\ , noun;
1. Excessive or flashy ornamentation or decoration
2. A fuss over a matter of little importance

Foofaraw is first attested in 1848 from French fanfaron and Spanish fanfarrón. The Spanish form is an adjective meaning "ostentatious, vain, arrogant" or a noun meaning "braggart, show-off" and it is supposedly of imitative origin. The word came to English through contact with Spanish and French speakers on the American western frontier.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Friday, May 20
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Fungible \FUHN-juh-buhl\ , adjective;
1. Law: Freely exchangeable for or replaced by another of like nature or kind in satisfaction of an obligation
2. Interchangeable
1. Something that is exchangeable or substitutable, usually used in the plural

The noun form of this word dates to 1765 and the adjective dates to 1818. It came to English as a legal term from Middle Latin fungibilis, which is derived from Latin fungi ("perform"). Fungi comes from the Proto-Indo-European base *bheug- ("to use, enjoy").

It appears as though this fungi has no connection with  fungus.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Thursday, May 19
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Ache \eyk\ , verb;
1. To have or suffer a continuous, dull pain
2. To feel great sympathy, pity, or the like
3. To feel eager; yearn; long
1. A continuous, dull pain
Me, for the last three days (source)
The origin of ache is Old English acan ("to ache, suffer pain") from Proto-Germanic *akanan, which is probably derived from the Proto-Indo-European base *ag-es- ("fault, guilt"). *Ag-es- and similar phonemes in Sanskrit and Greek may be onomatopoeic from the sound of groaning. The noun form comes from Middle English æche from Old English æce. Æche derived from Proto-Germanic *akiz, which is directly related to *akanan.

The spelling differences between the noun and verb forms reflected a difference in pronunciation. The noun was pronounced like modern ache, but the verb form had a soft \a\ and the 'ch' sounded like it does in watch ([ɑtʃ] if you know IPA). By the 1700's the two forms had the same pronounciation, and the spelling of both changed to ache based on a false assumption that their origin was Greek akhos ("pain, distress").

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Connubial \kuh-NOO-bee-ul\ or \kun-NYOO-bee-ul\ , adjective;
1. Of or pertaining to marriage, or the marriage state; conjugal; nuptial

This word dates to the 1650's from Latin connubialis, a variant of conubialis ("pertaining to wedlock") from conubium ("marriage"), which is a combination of com- + nubere ("together" + "to wed").

Nubere is the forebear of nubile, which originally meant "marriageable" in reference to a woman. The meaning "young and sexually attractive" is first attested in 1973.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Tuesday, May 17
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

Monday, May 16, 2011


Missionary \MISH-uh-ner-ee\ , noun;
1. A person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work
2. A person strongly in favor of a program, set of principles, etc., who attempts to persuade or convert others
3. A person who is sent on a mission
1. Pertaining to or connected with religious missions
2. Engaged in such a mission, or devoted to work connected with missions
3. Reflecting or prompted by the desire to persuade or convert others

Missionary dates to the 1650's and comes from mission. Mission dates to the 1590's and originally referred to Jesuits who were sent abroad. It was taken from Latin missionem ("act of sending") from mittere ("to send"), which may have ultimately derived from *smittere.

Now for the real reason behind today's post: Missionary position by Inky Fool

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Glamour \GLAM-er\ , noun;
1. The quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, especially by a combination of charm and good looks
2. Excitement, adventure, and unusual activity
3. Magic or enchantment; spell; witchery
1. Suggestive or full of glamour; glamourous

Glamour is taken from Scottish and was first attested in English in 1720. It is a variant of Scottish gramarye ("magic, enchantment, spell"), which is an alteration of English grammar. Gramarye dates to the early 14th century from Old French gramaire ("learning") and replaced the Old English word stæfcræft. The Old French word comes from Latin grammatica ("grammar, magic incantation, spells, mumbo-jumbo" and "irregular semi-popular adoption"), which was taken from Greek grammatike tekhne ("art of letters"). The Greek phrase could be used in the sense of philology (the study of historical written language) and literature, and derives from the same source as -graphy (graphein, "to draw or write").

The form grammar evolved by the late 14th century, but its modern definition ("rules of language") is a post-classical development. Until the 16th century that type of language learning was restricted to Latin, so Middle English gramarye evolved into "learning in general, knowledge peculiar to the learned classes." At the time this included astrology and magic, which is where the meaning of "occult knowledge" and the Scottish form glamour come from.

Grammar school dates to the late 14th century, but it was originally "a school in which the learned languages are grammatically taught". It became "a school between primary and secondary where English grammar is taught" around 1842 in the United States.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


Under \UHN-der\
Preposition: Beneath
Adverb: Below, lower, beneath
Adjective: Lower in position or degree; on the underside
Verb Phrase: Go under
Prefix: Signals subordination, situation beneath something else, of a lesser extent, or insufficiency

The origin of under is Old English under, which comes from Proto-Germanic *under- from Proto-Indo-European *ndhero- ("lower"). The Old English word could carry the sense of "subordination" (like underling), as well as be used as a preposition meaning "between, among" (as in under these circumstances). It was also used as a prefix as it is today.

Friday, May 13, 2011


UPDATE: They're baaaaack! It must have been a Friday the 13th trick on us bloggers...

How fitting that peevish is now the last post on LLL...
...that pretty much sums it up
Apparently Blogger has been having some issues lately and posts from 5/11 on are gone. Hopefully it's temporary. If not, I'll be highly peeved considering I had a nice long post about month names in Old English.

Thursday, May 12, 2011



The origin of day is Old English dæg ("day" or "lifetime") from Proto-Germanic *dagaz, which derived from Proto-Indo-European *dhegh-. In English, the original meaning was "the daylight hours" and wasn't extended to "the 24-hour period" until late Anglo-Saxon times.

Despite their similarities, day is not considered a relative of Latin dies.

In Old English, the days of the week were:
Sunday: Sunnandæg - "The day of the Sun"
Monday: Monandæg - "The day of the Moon"
Tuesday: Tiwesdæg - "The day of Tiw (Tyr)"
Wednesday: Wodnesdæg - "The day of Woden (Odinn)"
Thursday: Þunresdæg - "The day of Thunor (Thor)"
Friday: Frigedæg - "The day of Frige, or love"
Saturday: Sæterndæg - "The day of Saturn"

In case you are unfamiliar with the pronunciation of the Old English alphabet, here's some help:
Æ/æ - sounds like 'a' in cat
Þ/þ - sounds like 'th' in thick
Ð/ð - sounds like 'th' in those
G/g - sounds like 'j' in jeans

Wednesday, May 11, 2011



The origin of month is Old English monað from Proto-Germanic *mænoth-, which is related to *mænon- ("moon"). A month as a unit of time based on the cycles of the moon was invented by the Mesopotamians, but there is evidence that humans have been counting days relative to the moon since the Paleolithic age.

Before adopting the Julian calendar, English speakers in Britain followed this 12-month calendar:

1st month: Æfterra Geola - "After Yule"
2nd month: Solomonað - "Sun Month"
3rd month: Hreþmonað - from the divinity Hrepe
4th month: Eastermonað - from the divinity Eostre (probably where the word Easter came from)
5th month: Ðrimilcemonað - "Cow Milking Month"
6th month: Ærra Liþa - "Before Liþa"
7th month: Æfterra Liþa - "After Liþa"
8th month: Weodmonað - "Weed Month"
9th month: Haligmonað - "Holy Month"
10th month: Winterfylleð - "Winter Month" (first full moon of winter)
11th month: Blotmonað - "Sacrifice Month"
12th month: Ærra Geola - "Before Yule"

It is unclear when exactly English speakers adopted the Julian calendar, but it was certainly no earlier than 45BCE, because that's when it was invented. There are clues in the etymologies of the modern English months because they are based on the names of the Julian calendar months: Ianuarius, Februarius, Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Iunius, Quintilis (later Iulius), Sextilis (later Augustus), September, October, November, December, Intercalaris (used only in leap years).
It appears the we adopted September first, and an exact first attestation is not pinned down. Many of the other month names were adopted between 1000AD and 1100AD, and the rest by the late 14th century.

In September 1752 Great Britain and its dominions adopted the Gregorian calendar, which is the internationally recognized civic calendar toady. 

For more calendar-related info, see Calendopedia.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Mausoleum \maw-suh-LEE-uhm\ or \maw-zuh-LEE-uhm\ , noun;
1. A stately or magnificent tomb
2. A burial place for the bodies or remains of many individuals, often of a single family, usually in the form of a small building
3. A large, gloomy, depressing building, room, or the like
The first Mausoleum (source)

This word dates to 1546 from Latin mausoleum ("magnificent tomb") from Greek Mausoleion, which was a massive marble tomb at Halicarnassus. It was built in 353BC for a Persian satrap* named Mausolos, who made himself king of Caria. It was built by his wife/sister Artemisia and is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
Mausoleion was destroyed by an earthquake in the Middle Ages, but the site and some remains can still be seen in Bodrum, a town in Turkey.

*Satrap was the Persian term for the governor of a province in the ancient Median and Persian Empires. It was also adopted by the Sassanid Empire, the Hellenistic empires, and maybe others. Satrap is still used to a limited extent today, mainly in literature.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Peevish \PEE-vish\ , adjective;
1. Cross, querulous, or fretful, as from vexation or discontent
2. Showing annoyance, irritation, or bad mood
3. Perverse or obstinate

Defined "perverse, capricious, silly," peevish (formerly peyvesshe) dates to the late 14th century and is of uncertain origin. It may be modeled on Latin perversus ("reversed, perverse"), which is the past participle of pervertere ("to turn about"). Pervertere is a combination of per- + vertere ("away" + "to turn"). Vertere ultimately derives from Proto-Indo-Europen *wert- ("to turn, wind") from the base *wer- ("to turn, bend").

Peeve is a back-formation from peevish that dates to 1908. Pet peeve dates to 1919.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Apartheid \uh-PAHRT-heyt\ or \uh-PAHRT-hahyt\ , noun;
1. In the Republic of South Africa: A rigid policy of segregation of the nonwhite population
2. Any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.

The word apartheid was first attested in 1929 as an Afrikaans word for a South African socio-political concept. The official policy of racial segregation began in 1948 and lasted until 1994. Apartheid is literally "separateness" from Dutch apart + heid ("separate" + "-hood"). It is first attested in English 1947 in reference to the situation in Africa. Officially the English synonym is separate development, but that wasn't coined until 1955 and apartheid is definitely still used.

On November 30, 1973 the United Nations defined apartheid as "inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them." In 2002 the international community deemed it similar to crimes against humanity.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Callithump \KAL-uh-thuhmp\ , noun;
1. A children's parade, with prizes for the best costumes

Callithump is a back-formation of callithumpian, which is a colloquial word that is probably a fanciful formation dating to 1836. It may be related to gallithumpians ("a society of social reformers" or "disturbers of order at Parlimentary elections").

I realize that this will be the third* time I've referred to a 'back-formation' in a post, but I haven't explained what that is.
'Back-formation' is the creation of a new word (lexeme, technically) by removing affixes. The affixes can be real or assumed, depending on the word. From this process, editor begat edit, beggar begat beg, and many more.

* See dapple and gastronome.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Saturday, May 7
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

Friday, May 6, 2011


Premonish \pri-MON-ish\ , verb;
1. To warn beforehand

This word dates to the 1500's and comes from Latin praemonere ("to forewarn, foretell"), which is a combination of prae- + monere ("pre-" + "to advise, warn").

Premonish made me think of admonish, which is first attested in 1340. It comes from Old French amonester ("urge, encourage, warn"), which derives from Vulgar Latin *admonestare from Latin admonere ("bring to mind, remind, suggest" and "warn, advise, urge"). It's a combination of ad- + monere ("to" + "advise, warn"). Notice that there is no -d- in the Old French word. Originally the Old English word was -d-less as well, but around 1500 it reappeared thanks to influence from the Latin form.

There's another related word in English: monish.
Monish is first attested in 1382 and means "to warn." It's either another form of admonish with a weakened prefix, or it came from Anglo-Norman and Old French monester, which is most likely a derivative of Latin monere. This word is now rare and reserved for literary and archaic uses.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Friday, May 6
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Epigamic \ep-i-GAM-ik\ , adjective;
1. Attracting the opposite sex, as the colors or certain birds
You've got nothing on this guy (credit)
This word is first attested in 1890 and comes from Greek epigamoz ("marriageable"), which is a combination of epi + gamoz ("upon" + "marriage").

*note: The Greek word is written ἐπίγάμος. I may have transliterated incorrectly.

Today's word and the first definition were both taken from Dictionary.com's 'Word of the Day' for Thursday, May 5
Etymologies come from the Oxford English Dictionary and/or Etymonline.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Double \DUHB-uhl\

Dictionary.com lists 42 definitions for this word, which can be an adjective, noun, or verb. So, I'm going to assume you know what double means...

Dating to the early 13th century, the origin of double is Old French doble ("double, two-fold; two-faced, deceitful"). Doble comes from Latin duplus ("twofold, twice as much"), which is a combination of duo + -plus ("two" + "more"). Duo derives from Proto-Indo-European *duwo, which is also the forebear of Proto-Germanic *twai, which became Old English twa (the feminine and neuter form of twegen). What is twa in Modern English? Two.

Surprised to see feminine and neuter in English? See my post on whilhom.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Carbuncle \KAHR-buhng-kuhl\ , noun;
1. Pathology: A painful circumscribed inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue, resulting in suppuration and sloughing, and having a tendency to spread somewhat like a boil, but more serious in its effects
2. A gemstone, especially a garnet, cut with a convex back and a cabochon surface
3. Also called London brown, a dark grayish, red-brown color
1. Having the color carbuncle

This word dates to the early 13th century with the definition "fiery jewel." It comes from Old Northern French carbuncle ("carbuncle-stone" or "carbuncle, boil") which derives from Latin carbunculus ("red gem" or "red, inflamed spot"). Carbunculus is literally "a little coal" from carbo ("coal"), which derives from Proto-Indo-European *ker- ("heat, fire, to burn"). Carbo is also the forebear of carbon. In English, this word originally only applied to red gems like rubies and garnets. Using carbuncle to refer to tumors and boils dates to the late 14th century.

Monday, May 2, 2011


As you almost certainly now know, Osama bin Laden is dead thanks to action taken by the US military at the order of President Obama. Many people consider this a day for celebration while others feel more pensive. I fall into the second category. There is no way this thing is over, and who knows what kind of retaliation will come from his organization in the weeks and months ahead.

Anyway, you're here to read about words, not listen to me wax political. I guess I wanted to have the perfect word to express how I feel on this strange day, but so far words fail me. So, instead I'll go with the great American ideal: freedom

Freedom \FREE-duhm\ , noun;
1. The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint
2. Exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.
3. The power to determine action without restraint

Freedom comes from Old English freodom ("freedom, state of free will; charter, emancipation, deliverance") from freo + -dom. The adjective free is derived from Old English freo ("free, exempt from, not in bondage" and "noble; joyful"), which comes from Proto-Germanic *frijaz from Proto-Indo-European *prijos ("dear, beloved"). *Prijos is based on *pri-, which means "to love."
The verb and adverb free is from Old English freogan ("to free, liberate, manumit; to love, think of lovingly, honor"), which also comes from freo.

Originally, free was synonymous with "beloved, friend, to love," probably because you would be attached to the free members of your clan as opposed to the slaves. The idea of nations being free, as in "not subject to foreign rule or despotism" dates to the late 14th century. Free as in free of charge, as in "given without cost" dates to the 1580's.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Suburb \SUHB-urb\ , noun;
1. A district lying immediately outside a city or town, especially a smaller residential community
2. The suburbs, the area composed of such districts
3. An outlying part

I'm from central Illinois and went to the University of Illinois, which means that suburbs are a dirty word. Mostly because people like me generally dislike people from the Chicago suburbs. But, I digress...

Suburb dates to the mid-14th century from Old French suburbe, which derives from Latin suburbim ("an outlying part of a city"). It's a combination of sub- + urbs ("below, near" + "city"). In 17th century London, suburbs had a negative connotation and to call someone suburban meant they were "inferior, debased, and licentious in habit or life." Thus suburban sinner, a slang term for prostitutes and loose women. By 1817 the sense shifted but kept a somewhat negative connotation of "inferior manners and narrow views." This is the sense that we down-state Illini apply to our Chicago colleagues.

The Modern French equivalent of suburb is faubourg, which dates to the late 15th century from Middle French faux bourg. Officially, the Middle French word comes from Old French forsbourc, which is literally "that which is outside the town" but actually means "suburbs, outskirts." It is a combination of fors + bourc ("outside" + "town"). Bourc is of Frankish origin and is a cognate with English borough. I say 'officially' because there is also a folk-etymology* that faux bourg meant "false town," since the suburbs were seen as inauthentic. Faux means "false."

*A folk-etymology is a false etymology.

***Editor's note: There are many Chicago suburbanites I like quite a bit.