Tag Archives: Geoffrey Chaucer
nightmare

nightmare

  Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825) – Der Nachtmahr (1790)       The noun mare, which appeared in early Old English, denoted a spirit believed to produce a feeling of suffocation in a sleeping person or animal, hence also a feeling of suffocation experienced during sleep, and an oppressive or terrifying dream. Unrelated to mare in […]

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glabella

glabella

  title page of A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge, caruinge & buildinge (1598)       MEANING   anatomy: the smooth part of the forehead above and between the eyebrows     ORIGIN   This noun is a specific application of the Latin adjective glabella, feminine of glabellus, diminutive of glaber/glabr-, meaning […]

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valentine

valentine

  photograph: Hot Rocks       There are two Valentines, both Italian, one a priest and the other a bishop, who were martyred and used to be commemorated in the Roman Catholic calendar on 14th February.   However, they have no romantic associations and the modern customs linked with St Valentine’s Day arise from […]

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‘bird’

‘bird’

  Samuel Johnson, circa 1772, by Joshua Reynolds       The noun bird is from the masculine Old English brid (plural briddas), in Northumbrian, bird (plural birdas). There is no corresponding form in any other Germanic language, and the etymology is unknown. A connection with the nouns brood and breed is doubtful. The usual […]

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idiot

idiot

  Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1342-1400) as a pilgrim – from the Ellesmere Manuscript, an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales       MEANING   A stupid person     ORIGIN   Via Old French, the English noun idiot is from Latin idiota, meaning uneducated, ignorant, inexperienced, common person. This Latin noun was […]

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cockney

cockney

  Cheapside and Bow Church – 1837 image: FamilySearch/Nathan W. Murphy       MEANING   The noun cockney was thus defined by Nathan Bailey in An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1731 edition): A Nick-name given to one who is born and bred in the City of London, or within the Sound of Bow Bell*; […]

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danger

danger

  Shylock and Portia (1835) by the American painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872)     Through Old French dangier, danger, the English noun danger is from an assumed Late Latin form dominiarium, derivative of dominium, property, right of ownership, hence lordship, sovereignty, rule, from dominus, lord, master. The a in the Old French forms is probably […]

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orient

orient

  The Latin verb oriri meant, of persons, to rise, bestir oneself, get up, and, of heavenly bodies, to rise, become visible. Hence, as a noun, the present participle oriens/orientis denoted the rising sun and the quarter where the sun rises, the East, the Orient, as opposed to occidens/occidentis, the West, the Occident (the Latin […]

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mermaid

mermaid

  Mélusine en son bain, épiée par son époux Roman de Mélusine – Jean d’Arras illuminated manuscript – 15th century – Bibliothèque nationale de France     A mermaid is an imaginary, partly human sea creature with the head and trunk of a woman and the tail of a fish or cetacean. Originally, the mermaid […]

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placebo

placebo

  William Cullen (1710-90)     The word is from classical Latin placebo, meaning I shall be pleasing (or acceptable), from the verb placere, to please. In post-classical Latin, placebo, the first word of the first antiphon of vespers in the Office for the Dead, was used as a name for that service. In the Vulgate, […]

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