Thursday, April 19, 2018

Language Of Confusion: Bodies Of Water, Part II

Back for more, are you?

Bay showed up in the fifteenth century from the Old French baie and Late Latin baia, which might be from the Celtic Iberian (Celtic people who settled in what’s now Spainbahia. And it’s not related to any other usage of the word bay, because why would it be?

Pond showed up in the thirteenth century, but back then it only meant a fake body of water. Uh, fake in the man-made sense as opposed to naturally occurring (which it did pick up the meaning of later on). It’s actually a variation of the word pound, but not the pound that means weight or money or hit repeatedly. Instead it’s from the one that refers to the place where stray animals go, because that means enclosure and I guess somehow a pond is an enclosure? It’s of “unknown origin” before that, but… yeah. Animal pound and pond are two words I did not expect to be related.

Creek showed up in the mid fifteenth century as creke, which is an altered form of kryk, which showed up in the thirteenth century. It might be from the Old Norse kriki, corner or nook, with some influence from the Anglo French crique, or hell, it might be related to the word crook (in the sense of being crooked or twisted literally as opposed to figuratively). Well, these words are turning out to be more interesting than expected.

Strait showed up in the mid fourteenth century, but it didn’t refer to bodies of water until the late fourteenth century. It comes from the Old French estreit/estrait, narrow pass, which is where we get the non-water related strait (as in strait-laced or straitjacket) and is absolutely not related to straight in anyway. Somehow. And strait comes from the classical Latin strictus, narrows, past participle of stringere, bind. And before you ask, strictus is where we get strict but stringere is somehow not where we get string. No, that would make too much sense.

Gulf showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French golf (gulf) and Italian golfo, (also gulf). It’s from the Late Latin colfos, which was taken from the Greek kolpos, bay or curved shape (also one of its definitions is sinus). That word can be traced to the Proto Indo European kwelp, arch, curve, or vault. Fun fact: whelm (as in over or underwhelm) is from the same word!

This one was way weirder than last week’s. I think it broke my brain. How are words even real?

Fordham University []


  1. So is the game of golf related to gulf?

  2. (also one of its definitions is sinus)<--Which sinus? Is this the sinus as in nasal? Or sinus from math (sine to sinusoidal)?

  3. I think ponds are still mostly man made.

  4. Well, I've learned my new thing for today and it's not even 6am yet.

  5. LOL, maybe words are as manmade as the pond. ;)
    I love learning the etymology of words! It's so fascinating, and often takes unexpected turns.


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