Thursday, October 20, 2016

Language of Confusion: Grave Situations, Part III

Wow. I’ve been talking about death a lot lately. Welp, here’s more!

Corpse has kind of an unusual story. It showed up in the mid sixteenth century. Originally the P was silent and it didn’t used to have an E at the end. Kind of like the word corps. Which happens to be where corpse comes from. Really. Corps showed up in the late thirteenth century—before that it was cors, an old word for body. It comes from the Old French cors, body/person/corpse, and classical Latin corpus, also body (it’s where corporeal comes from, obvs). And they used to pronounce the P, so we can blame French for getting rid of it for some dumb reason. Although I think the silent S might be on us.

Cadaver first showed up in the early sixteenth century from the classical Latin cadaver, which means…cadaver. Okay, not much imagination in this one. It’s origins before that are unclear, but it’s thought to come from cadere, fall, which kind of makes sense since a dead body is a fallen one. So we finally got one that’s not totally frigging weird and it only took eight words.

Wow. We have a lot of words for dead body. Carcass showed up in the late thirteenth century from the Anglo French carcois. Before that it’s the Old French charcois (roughly the same meaning) and Anglo Latin (that’s the first time I’ve mentioned that language on this blog) carcosium, dead body. So yeah. This one just kind of popped up from nowhere.



  1. Although not a steadfast rule, we tend to use carcass for dead animals and corpse for dead people.

  2. I'd wondered if there was a link between corpse and corps.

  3. Interesting that there are so many words for dead body. That usually denotes something a culture considers important. Kinda troubling to think that.

  4. Interesting they all start with C….

  5. Now I want to invent a new word for "dead body." Yes, I am strange like that. ;)

  6. So many words for a dead body!!
    Of course, don't forget "stiff," "remains," and the ever-lovely "roadkill."


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