The Etymology of Death, Grief, and Mourning

call_me_when_you__re_sober_by_zhao1My dear readers, what a difficult month it has been. One of my dogs died unexpectedly, from something called spontaneous pneumothorax, which, in a nutshell, means he had holes in his lungs that formed spontaneously and grew progressively worse over time.

I’m not trying to bring you down; I just wanted you to understand why I chose to write today’s post. Continue reading


The (Etymological) Origins of the Wicked Stepmother

the_seven_deadly_sins__wrath_by_dantetyler-d5s42mmSome of you may know that, in addition to many other things, I am also a stepmother. A recent conversation with my stepdaughter got me thinking about the origins of stepmother. You see, in French, a stepmother is called a belle-mère, which essentially means beautiful-mother. I wanted to know why the English version was so, um, boring.

It turns out that it’s not boring at all. In fact, it’s quite fascinating. Let me tell you why. Continue reading

Emerging from the Dark (Matter)

Zombie brain illustrationHello to some of my favourite people on the Internet!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have been up to my eyeballs in work since January. The kind of work that drains all the energy out of your brain so all you want to do at the end of the day is pretend to be a satiated zombie (i.e., sit still, and maybe drool a little).  Continue reading

W is for…

Wizard-warlockHappy July, my dear readers! If you celebrated your country’s birthday or independence or something similar in the last week or so, I hope you had a great time. My Canada Day celebrations began with a tornado warning and ended with fireworks, which I think sums up my country pretty nicely. Wild and beautiful.

Okay, so it’s time for the next instalment of my Vocabulary Series. Today, I warmly welcome the wise and the whatnot to allow the letter W to wash over your wonderfully whimsical selves.

This first word is a verb that makes me think of soft summer days at the beach.

Waft (verb)

Etymology:   First appears around 1500, meaning to move gently through the air. Likely comes from the Middle Dutch/Middle Low German word wachten, meaning to guard. It might also be related to the Scottish/Northern English word waff, meaning to make something move to and fro.

Definition:  To float or glide gently through the air (can also refer to scents).

Example:   Wanda the werepup wept as she watched her balloon waft away on the warm summer breeze.


My second word choice started out with one meaning and evolved to mean something a little different but a whole lot more interesting!

Warlock (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the 1680s in Scotland, meaning the male equivalent of a witch. Comes from the Old English word wærloga, meaning traitor, liar, enemy, or devil. Wærloga comes from wær, which refers to faith and fidelity or an agreement or covenant, and in turn comes from the Proto-Germanic wera– and the Proto-Indo-European wereo-, meaning true or trustworthy. Loga comes from the early Old English word leogan, meaning to lie. Its use to describe someone in league with the devil dates to around 1300, while its use to describe a male witch or sorcerer appears in the 1560s.

Definition:   A man who practices witchcraft; a wizard or sorcerer.

Example:  The kindly neighbourhood warlock took pity on Wanda; with a wave of his wand, Wanda’s wayward balloon was returned to her waiting hands.


And my final word choice is one that is loaded with meaning, both socially and politically. I was pleasantly surprised to discover its innocuous origins.

Wife (noun)

Etymology:   Comes from the Old English word wif, meaning woman, female, lady, and occasionally wife. Wif comes from the Proto-Germanic wiban, a word with unknown origins that also means woman. A number of other old European languages have similar words for woman (Old Norse vif, Danish and Swedish viv, Middle Dutch wiif, Old High German wib, and the German Weib). One possible Proto-Indo-European root is weip-, meaning to twist, turn, or wrap, which could suggest a veiled person.

Wif evolved into wifman, which is where the modern English word woman comes from. The modern meaning to refer to a female spouse started to emerge in Old English, but the original meaning is still preserved in a number of other words, like midwife and fishwife—and also in expressions like old wives’ tale.

Definition:   A married woman, especially in relation to her spouse.

Example:  Once Wanda’s balloon was securely tied to her wrist, the warlock’s wife whisked Wanda home.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credit:  Guro deviantART

T is for…


Welcome, dear readers, to the 20th letter of my Vocabulary Series! I can’t believe we are so close to the end of the alphabet. Today, I thought I would tell you about some terrifically tasty words beginning with the letter T.

The first word I chose in celebration of one of my favourite shows, Games of Thrones, which aired one of its best episodes ever last night. (There are no spoilers below, in case you were wondering.) Anyway, this word is synonymous with kings from any number of domains.

Throne (noun)

Etymology:  First appears around 1200 as trone, meaning the seat of God or a saint in heaven. By 1300, it was used to describe a seat occupied by a sovereign. It comes from the Old French trone (compare to the modern French trône), which, in turn, comes from the Latin thronus, which comes from the Greek thronos, both meaning elevated seat or chair. Thronos came from the Proto-Indo-European root dher-, meaning to hold firmly or support. In English, the classical “h” starts to appear in throne in the late 1300s. Its humorous use to describe a toilet was first recorded in 1922.

Definition:  An ornate, often raised, ceremonial chair occupied by a monarch, bishop, or similar; the position, office, or power of a sovereign.

Example:  Kevin was having a blast as the newly appointed King of the Fire-Worshippers until he realized his throne was conveniently perched at the edge of a volcano.


This next word I chose because I love the way it sounds just like it should.

Taut (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the mid-1200s as tohte, meaning stretched or pulled tight. It may come from the Old English tog-, the past participle stem of teon, meaning to pull or drag, which comes from the Proto-Germanic tugn, which comes from Proto-Indo-European root deuk-, both meaning to lead.

Definition:  Stretched or pulled tight; not slack; tense.

Example:  Kevin dangled over the mouth of the volcano, clinging to the taut rope and wondering why he hadn’t listened to his mother.


The bonus word this week is another adjective. I can’t read—or say—this one without giggling, which might be a reflection on my maturity, but if you’ve ever read two pages of a romance novel you probably know exactly what I’m talking about.

Turgid (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the early 1600s. Comes from the Latin word turgidus, meaning swollen, inflated, or distended. Turgidus comes from turgere, meaning to swell, and is of unknown origin. Its figurative use in prose is first recorded in 1725.

Definition:  Swollen and distended or congested; (of language) pompous or bombastic.

Example:  Reverend Blaze touched his turgid members reassuringly. “The swelling should go down once the sacrifice is complete.”


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Iron Throne image credit: HBO