Tag Archives: Romance languages
galaxy

galaxy

  the Milky Way – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Jurvetson       The noun galaxy appeared in Middle English in the sense of the Milky Way, the diffuse band of light stretching across the night sky that consists of millions of faint stars, nebulae, etc., within our Galaxy. The first known user of this word […]

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squirrel

squirrel

  photograph: Peter Trimming       The noun squirrel, which appeared in Middle English in forms such as squyrel and squerell, is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as escuirel and escureul (Modern French écureuil), from the unattested Late Latin scuriolus, diminutive of an unattested altered form of the Latin word sciurus (biologists have retained the […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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‘Noel’

      MEANINGS   – Noel, or Noël: Christmas, especially on Christmas cards and as a refrain in carols – noel, or noël: a Christmas carol     ORIGIN   This noun is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as Noël, Noel (modern French Noël), variants of forms such as Naël, Nael, first attested […]

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infantry

infantry

  La infanta doña Margarita de Austria (Infanta Margarita Teresa in a Pink Dress (circa 1665) by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo (circa 1612-67)       The noun infantry is, via French infanterie, from Italian infanteria, foot-soldiery. This Italian noun is from infante, a youth, a servant, a foot-soldier. The sense development of Italian infante […]

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ignis fatuus

ignis fatuus

  Henry Buttes       The Latin ignis fatuus (plural ignes fatui), meaning foolish fire, seems to have first appeared in an English text in the mid-16th century and denotes a phosphorescent light seen hovering or floating at night on marshy ground, thought to result from the combustion of natural gases. The common name […]

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mari complaisant – wittol

mari complaisant – wittol

  Cuckoos are famed for laying their eggs in host species’ nests, leaving unwitting “foster” birds to raise their chicks. Photograph from Cuckoos are no match for local reed warblers (BBC).       The French expression un mari complaisant, which literally means an accommodating husband, denotes a husband tolerant of his wife’s adultery. This sense […]

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boutique

boutique

  image: Salle 103 – Latin (Collège de Vinci – Belfort – France)         MEANINGS OF BOUTIQUE   a small shop selling fashionable clothes or accessories a business serving a sophisticated or specialised clientele     ORIGIN   In the second half of the 18th century, English borrowed the French noun boutique […]

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vanilla

vanilla

  Vanilla planifolia in Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (1887), published by Franz Eugen Köhler     In English, the word is first attested in The Indian Nectar, or A discourse concerning chocolata (1662), by the author and physician Henry Stubbe (1632-76): The next Ingredient of Chocolata is Tlilxochil (or, as some write it, Tlixochil) or, as the […]

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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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