Tag Archives: Germanic
eagle

eagle

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons       The English eagle is from French aigle. The French noun is from the Latin feminine noun aquila, which is perhaps, in allusion to the bird’s common colour, from the adjective aquilus, feminine aquila, meaning dark-coloured, dun, swarthy. The Latin name denoted the bird and a military ensign surmounted […]

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muggins

muggins

  a Toby jug by Ralph Wood the Younger (1748-95) photograph: Victoria and Albert Museum     MEANING   A muggins is a foolish and gullible person. The word is often used humorously to refer to oneself.     ORIGIN   In colloquial usage since the mid-19th century, this word is perhaps a use of […]

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maelstrom

maelstrom

  The Maelstrom on a clear day (The islands of Mosken and Værøy can be seen in the distance.) photograph: Lofoten Islands       This English noun originated in the early-modern Dutch maelstrom (now maalstroom). It was originally a proper name designating a strong and dangerous current flowing between two of the Lofoten islands […]

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monger

monger

  The Fish Stall (La Pescheria), by Bartolomeo Passerotti (1529-92) Galleria Nazionale di Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, Roma       The noun monger appeared in Old English in forms such as mangere and mangare. It was not only, as it is now, used as a combining form denoting a dealer or trader in […]

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brandy

brandy

  The Grand Master; or, Adventures of Qui Hi? in Hindostan. A Hudibrastic Poem in Eight Cantos by Quiz (1816) – illustration by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) (photograph: Julie L. Mellby – Princeton University Library)       The noun brandy appeared around 1640. Its original forms were brandwine and brandewine, from Dutch brandewijn, burnt (= […]

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butterfly

butterfly

  photograph: Steve Ogden - Wildlife Insight     This noun, which appeared around the year 1000 as buttorfleoge, is simply a compound of butter and fly, and not – as sometimes poetically suggested – an alteration of flutter by. The reason for this name is unknown. Dutch had botervlieg and German Butterfliege, which, like the […]

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ladybird

ladybird

  ladybird on strawberry leaf – photograph: nutmeg66       A coccinellid is a beetle of the family Coccinellidae. The genus name Coccinella is from Latin coccineus, scarlet (cochineal, a scarlet dye, has the same origin). This family includes the ladybirds (ladybugs in American English).The scientific name of the common European seven-spot ladybird is […]

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gossamer

gossamer

  photograph: Mark A. Chappell     MEANING   A fine, filmy substance consisting of cobwebs spun by small spiders, seen especially in autumn.     ORIGIN   The word gossamer, which appeared in the early 14th century in the form gosesomer, is apparently composed of goose and summer. The reason for the appellation is […]

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constable – marshal

constable – marshal

  photograph: Institut de la maréchalerie     The noun constable, which dates back to the mid-13th century, is from Old French cunestable, conestable (modern French connétable), representing the Late Latin comes stabuli, meaning count, or officer, of the stable, marshal. (The Latin noun comes/comit-, which is the origin of count in the sense of […]

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folklore

folklore

  This photograph of William John Thoms was published in the magazine The Academy of 11th November 1899. The folklore of the picture is that Thoms himself wrote the little poem on the back of this photograph when he presented it to his friend, George Laurence Gomme.   credit: Stephen Winick – Library of Congress […]

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