Do you think that etymology is boring? If so, well… this may convince you otherwise.
The English language has a long and strange history, with Germanic roots that were heavily influenced by waves of Scandinavian and Norman French invaders, and which intermingled with plenty of Latin and Ancient Greek. Since then, English has borrowed words freely from every existing language family.
While many words’ origins are exactly what you’d expect—for instance, the word chicken comes from the Old English word cicen, also meaning “chicken”—many other words have shifted away from their original meaning over the years. Sometimes that original meaning was more descriptive of the word in question, while other times the original and current meanings are related but strikingly different.
Some etymologies are fascinating, some are baffling, and others are genuinely amusing. Read on to learn more!
Hoot! The word owl has its origin in the Old English word ūle, which is related to Dutch uil and German Eule, which are an imitation of the hooting noise that many owls make. Try to pronounce them aloud and see: do they really sound like owl calls?
Although lemurs are a Madagascar mammal, the word lemur actually comes from modern Latin: the word lemures referred to “spirits of the dead” in Roman mythology. (The animal lemur was named this because of the ghostly appearance of its face.)