Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Language of Confusion: Fabricated

Like I vowed (or threatened), I'm running my word nerdery on Wednesday. Here's the first installment:

Fabric is an interesting word. Not only does it mean cloth or materials, but it’s part of fabricate, which means make up, like one would a story : ).

The word fabric is from the late 15th century, although it didn’t take on the modern meaning of a textile until 1791 (which puts it right smack in the middle of the Industrial Revolution, if I’m not mistaken). Before it meant a manufactured material, it meant a building, a thing that was made, and it came from a word that showed up a century earlier in the Middle French language (fabrique). Its next ancestor is the Latin fabrica which means a workshop or a trade.

That fabrica is what connects it to fabricate. Fabricate showed up a little earlier than its cousin, in the mid 15th century, although it didn’t take on its modern meaning (tell a lie) until the late 18th century. Its Latin parent is fabricatus, the past participle (past tense) version of fabricare (make, construct), which also comes from fabrica.

So one is what is made by words, the other is what is made by materials : ).

That’s not really the end of the story for either one. Further back in history, fabrica comes from faber, also Latin, the word for an artisan who works in hard materials. Faber comes from a Proto-Indo-European word, dhabh, which means to fit together. Just don't ask me how we got from there to here. I know we did it, I just can't follow how.

I love etymology. Words that seem to share nothing but the spelling are close relatives. I think it’s an appropriate analogy for families, too.

Again, thanks to the Online Etymology Dicitonary.

And thanks to’s article confirming when the Industrial Revolution was.

1 comment:

  1. I love etymology. We did a whole unit on it back in the 9th grade, showing us where our words came from. I thought it was really neat and up until 2 or 3 moves ago still had some of my stuff from that class. I tend to follow the etymology of names instead of language in general these days, finding new (or rather old) spellings of names. But it's still fascinating all the same.


Please validate me.