In this weeks blog, we decided to look into the interesting etymologies of words we all use, but probably haven’t given much thought into their origins. Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time! Read on to discover the interesting etymology of some common words:
Malaria- the word Malaria comes from Rome and derives from the medieval Italian words ‘mal’ meaning ‘bad’ and ‘aria’ meaning air, so it literally means ‘bad air’. The term was used to describe the unpleasant air emanating from the marshland surrounding Rome, that was believed to causes the disease we now call Malaria.
Quarantine-this word has its origins in the black death which swept across Europe in the 14th century. It comes from the venetian dialect form of the Italian words ‘quaranta giorni’, meaning ‘forty days’, in reference to the practice of isolating ships off shore for 40 days before allowing the passengers ashore, in an effort to stop the spread of the plague.
Nightmare- in Germanic folklore, a ‘mare’ is an evil female spirit or goblin that sits upon a sleepers chest, suffocating and/or giving them bad dreams!
Clue- this word derives from Greek mythology, coming from the word ‘clew’ meaning a ball of yarn’. In Greek mythology, Ariadne gives Theseus a ball of yarn to help him find his way out of the minotours labyrinth. Because of this, the word ‘clew’ came to man something that points the way! The spelling we know came into usage in the 15th century.
Avocado- this word derives from the Aztec word ahucatl, meaning testicle! This may be partly due to the fruit’s resemblance to a testicle but also because it was supposedly believed to be an aphrodisiac. When the Spanish conquistadors came, “ahuácatl” became “aguacate” and eventually “avogato” and then “avocado”, and so the fruit came to Europe, via Spain, under that name.
Which of these etymologies is your favourite? Let us know on our social media pages!