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blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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to intensify

    MEANING   to render intense, to give intensity to     ORIGIN   The English poet, critic and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) coined this verb in Biographia Literaria; or, Biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions (1817): The true practical general law of association is this; that whatever makes certain parts […]

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péniche

péniche

  ‘péniches’ in Paris – photograph: JLPC/Wikimedia Commons       Nowadays, the French feminine noun péniche denotes a barge. It was borrowed in the early 19th century from English pinnace with the following English meanings: – a small rowed boat forming part of the equipment of a warship or other large vessel; – a small light vessel […]

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‘wasp’

‘wasp’

  image from Le Corset à travers les âges (The Corset through the ages – 1893), written by Ernest Léoty and illustrated by Saint-Elme Gautier     MEANING   a social winged insect which has a narrow waist and a sting and is typically yellow with black stripes     ORIGIN   Of Germanic origin, the noun […]

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R.S.V.P.

R.S.V.P.

    R.S.V.P. is an initialism from French répondez s’il vous plaît (literally respond if you please), meaning please reply, used at the end of invitations to request a response. It first appeared in English in the early 19th century. For example, in Domestic Duties; or, Instructions to young married ladies, on the management of […]

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apple-john

    An apple-john is a kind of apple, called in French deux-années or deux-ans, because it will keep two years, and is considered to be in perfection when shrivelled and withered. The second element is after the name of St John, because the apple ripens around St John’s Day (24th June). In Huloets dictionarie […]

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contredanse

    MEANING   a courtly French version of the English country dance, originating in the 18th century and similar to the quadrille     ORIGIN   The English noun contredanse, or contredance, was borrowed from French contredanse, itself an alteration of English country dance. The English country dance was introduced into France during the […]

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cockroach

    MEANING   A beetle-like scavenging insect with long antennae and legs. Several tropical kinds have become established worldwide as household pests.     ORIGIN   This noun first appeared in the form cacarootch in The generall historie of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles (1624), by John Smith (1580-1631), soldier and colonial governor. […]

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spick and span

    MEANING   extremely neat and clean     ORIGIN   The adjective span new, meaning perfectly new, was derived from Old Norse spán-nýr, meaning literally chip new (cf. German Span, chip, shaving), the metaphor being as new as a freshly cut wooden chip as in the obsolete English adjective split new. The adjective […]

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caterpillar

    MEANING   the larva of a butterfly or moth     ORIGIN   First attested in the mid-15th century, the noun caterpillar is probably from catepeluse and variants, which were the Anglo-Norman forms of the Old French feminine noun chatepelose and variants, meaning literally hairy she-cat. In his textbook Lesclarcissement de la langue […]

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