Dog Days

Puppy looking

Happy Monday, dear readers! Apparently, the Super Bowl was yesterday—but for those of us stuck in the throes of winter’s icy grip, there was an even more important event on the calendar. That’s right, Groundhog Day. Well, it is with a heavy heart I tell you that Ontario’s Wiarton Willie has predicted six more weeks of winter. Evil rodent.

So, to take your mind off winter, let me remind you that I am currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help me finish the novel I am currently working on. You should check it out—and bear in mind that I am an introverted writer, so making a video of myself was quite an accomplishment.

If you have seen the video already, you’ll know that it also features one of my dogs, Argus, who was named after Odysseus’s dog from the Odyssey. Anyway, I’ve had dogs on the brain lately, so I started wondering about the origins of the word dog. Today, I’d like to share what I’ve learned with all of you.

Our modern word, dog, comes from the Old English word docga, originally used to refer to a powerful breed of canine. By the sixteenth century, docga had replaced hund, another Old English word used to refer to canines in general, after which it was picked up by a number of other European languages (e.g., French dogue, Danish dogge, etc.). Beyond this, however, the origins of the word dog remain a mystery. Interestingly, we run into the same mystery with the word dog in a number of other languages, including Spanish (perro), Old Church Slavonic (pisu), Polish (pies), and Serbo-Croatian (pas).

Why do you suppose that is? My theory is that humans and dogs have been palling around for so long that our names for them are too ancient to trace.

If we turn our attention to the word canine, we have a bit more success. It means pointed tooth and first appeared in English in the late 1300s. It comes from the Latin canis, meaning dog, which is thought to come from the Proto-Indo-European root kwon-, also meaning dog. Of course, I’d argue that this supports my theory.

What do you think? Is our relationship with dogs so ancient it defies etymology? I wonder if we run into the same mystery with cats? I guess I know what I’m looking up next.


Image credit: Lars Christensen /

5 thoughts on “Dog Days

    1. Cat etymology is now on the top of my list. I like both cats and dogs, but I agree that cats are less maintenance. Except for the whole litter box thing.

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