Thursday, February 2, 2017

Language of Confusion: Variable

Today we’re looking at vary and all its…variations. Sorry. Couldn’t avoid that pun. And didn’t want to.

Vary showed up in the fourteenth century from the Old French variier, change or alter, and classical Latin variare, to change. So yeah, vary always meant change. It’s believed to be related to varus, which has definitions like different, bent, and knock-kneed (-_-). It’s from the Proto Indo European wer-, a bodily infirmary, usually a raised spot on the body. You know, like a wart. Which makes sense because wer- is the origin word for wart.

This post took a very strange turn, but it can’t be helped. Keep in mind that wart has a completely different origin after wer-. It was warton in Proto Germanic and waert in Old English afterwards. Verruca, another word for wart, is actually closer to vary, and not because it starts with the same letter. Other distantly related words include varicose, which comes from the Latin varicosus, which actually means multicolored in addition to dilated veins. It’s from varicis, which also means wart and is probably related to the aforementioned varus.


Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Variables are more like different options, so there must've been another twist to get to that point.

  2. From vary to wart. Makes perfect sense to me. LOL!

  3. This is one of those days when I got nothing.
    I started reading politics too early.

  4. Next time I want to insult someone without their knowing what I'm talking about, I'll use verruca.

  5. Well, a wart is something varying on your skin... Sure, why not?


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