What is etymology, and also why is that important? join us on one excursion right into the civilization of eight usual words’ exciting convoluted backstories.

You are watching: A person who studies word origins and meanings

2. Cappuccino (Origin: Italian/German)

Next time you trying come flirt through someone at your local coffee shop, admire them with this whimsical anecdote about the origin of words cappuccino: that the diminutive type of the word cappuccio, which way “hood” in Italian. Wondering what the link is in between a (little) hood and a cappuccino? One must look no further than the Capuchin Monks, whose hooded habits were a dark, oak brown similar to the shade of a good cappuccino.

The an initial recorded use of words was in 1790 in Vienna, Austria. Wilhelm Tissot jotted under a recipe because that an exquisite Kapuzinerkaffee (lit. “Capuchin coffee”), which was rather various in constitution to its contemporary successor, containing sugar, cream and also egg yolks. The current, somewhat streamlined recipe now consists of espresso and foamed milk, but there room still parts of Austria where you can order a good ol’ Kapuziner.

3. Catastrophe (Origin: Italian/Greek)

The native disaster has actually been passed approximately Europe choose a hot potato. The English variation is most very closely tied to the French désastre, which is acquired from the Old Italian disastro, itself acquired from Greek. The pejorative prefix dis- and also aster (star) can be taken as bad star, or an ill-starred event. The ancient Greeks to be fascinated by astronomy and also the cosmos, and believed wholly in the influence of celestial body on terrestrial life. Because that them, a catastrophe was a specific kind the calamity, the reasons of which could be meeting to an adverse and uncontrollable alignment that planets. It’s because of this interesting to note that the strict, contemporary English an interpretation of disaster clearly stipulates that a catastrophe is human-made, or the repercussion of human being failure.

4. Handicap (Origin: English)

This native originates from the 17th-century English trading game “hand-in-cap.” The game associated two players and an arbitrator, or umpire. The football player would existing two possessions lock would choose to trade. The umpire would certainly then decision whether the possessions to be of equal value or not, and also if lock weren’t, would certainly calculate the discrepancy. The owner that the lesser object would make up the difference with money, and then all 3 participants would location forfeit money right into a hat. If the two players agreed v the umpire’s valuation, lock would remove their hand from the hat with their palm open. If lock disagreed, they would pull the end their hand clenched in a fist. If both agreed or disagreed, the umpire would gain the forfeit money, when if one agreed and also the other didn’t, the player that approved the transaction would obtain the forfeit money.

Over time, hand-in-cap became known together “handicap” and also started come be provided to to express to any kind of kind that equalization or balancing that a contest or game. Words handicap is still used in plenty of sports today, such together golf and also horse racing. Indeed, steed racing was probably the very first sport to introduce the term in order to define an umpire’s decision come add more weight to a horse so the it operation equally come its competitors. This notion of gift burdened or placed at a disadvantage was lugged over to describe human being with a disability in the at an early stage 20th century. By the mid-20th century, the was commonly used, yet it has due to the fact that fallen out of the renowned lexicon.

5. Blue jeans (Origin: Italian)

Although jeans room quintessentially American, and their development is commonly attributed to Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss, the etymology of the popular garment is actually of european origin. The fabric Strauss supplied for his patented, mass-produced trousers was first produced in Genoa, Italy and Nimes, France. Why’s the significant? Well, the French word because that Genoa is Gênes, and the surname “jeans” is likely an anglicization the the material’s city that origin. Similarly, words “denim” many likely originates from de Nimes, meaning “from Nimes” in French. Although we regularly talk about denim jeans nowadays, the two products actually differed. Denim was coarser, much more durable and also of higher quality than the toughened noodle corduroy made in Genoa. Employees in northern Italy to be sporting blue jeans as at an early stage as the 17th century, long prior to post-war American subcultures picked up top top them as a fashion accessory.

6. Salary (Origin: Latin)

The word “salary” originates from the Latin salarium, meaning “salt money.”

In ancient times, salt was provided for countless important things and also was regularly referred to together “white gold.” It might be used as one antiseptic to treat wounds — In romantic languages one can recognize a connection between sal/sale, definition “salt,” and also salud/saude/salute, an interpretation “health”) — and also to preserve food, and also as a method of payment in Greece and Rome.

As far earlier as the Egyptian Empire, laborers to be paid v salt that they could use to maintain their food. The roman Empire ongoing using this form of payment and also it took on the name “salary” for “that i beg your pardon was provided to employees at the finish of the working month,” which add to a new dimension come the notion of a company’s solvency.

7. Trivial (Origin: Latin)

“Trivial” originates indigenous the Latin indigenous trivium, which was offered to average “a place where three roadways meet” (tri- meaning “three,” and -vium indigenous via, definition “road”). A trivium acquired the connotation of gift an open, public place — a mini agora — where human being from throughout society’s technicolor spectrum might relax, chat and simply coexist. The adjective trivialis to be a derivative of trivium and also came to mean “vulgar, ordinary, of small importance, common and also contemporary,” and the English adjective trivial carries lot of this meaning to this day: tired, ordinary, commonplace; of tiny use, import, repercussion or significance.

8. Whiskey (Origin: Gaelic)

Medieval monks called it aqua vitae, definition “life water.” The expression was transformed into uisce beatha when it was transferred to Gaelic. Together time passed and the word was anglicized, uisce developed into uige, usque, and also then uisky, which bear an obvious and close resemblance to “whiskey.”

You may have noticed the you deserve to spell the drink two different ways — “whiskey” and “whisky.” part people believe the extra “e” was included to through Irish and American distilleries to differentiate their higher quality whiskeys during a duration when Scottish whisky had actually a bad reputation.

Scotch was likewise introduced come denominate a Scottish whisky, and the word “whiskey” has been embraced in other nations for quite various reasons. In some southern American countries, it’s supplied as an alternative to “cheese” to encourage civilization to smile once being photographed. How and why we made decision “cheese,” and why the southern Americans determined “whiskey” (and the Spanish patata, or “potato”) is a story for an additional time.

Why research Etymology?

Etymology not only enhances your understanding of your native language but likewise gives girlfriend insights right into its shared roots through other languages. Before reading this article, would certainly you have actually thought that every time you to speak “avocado,” you prompting Moctezuma to chuckle in his tomb? some word origins are wonderfully idiosyncratic and also make for good anecdotes, while rather demonstrate typical standards and rules which help you assimilate new words and also terms across languages.

Take the straightforward examples the the Latin prefixes con- (also “com-” in English) and dis-, which space widely offered in romance languages and also indicate “togetherness” and “apartness,” respectively. Learning such elements of etymology have the right to vastly enhance your guesswork when it concerns deciphering words, even if it is it it is in concatenate (con– and also -catenate, indigenous catena, definition “chain”; a verb meaning to chain together) or disconsolate (dis- and con– and also -solate, indigenous solari, an interpretation “to comfort”; one adjective describing someone who can’t it is in comforted or consoled).

See more: Where Is Gerber Baby Food Manufactured, Gerber Products Company

Want to check out further? we encourage girlfriend to put on her etymologist’s hat and venture right into the jungle of meaning.