Thursday, January 30, 2020

Language Of Confusion: Homing, Part I

Yeah, another multi-parter. Although hopefully this one will only be two weeks long.

House comes from the Old English hus, which was pronounced something like “hoos”. I don’t know why that amuses me so, but it does. Anyway, it’s from the Proto Germanic h­­usan, but its origin before that is unknown—although one theory is that it’s related to the root word for hide (to hide, not like the hide of an animal). But that’s only a theory.

Home comes from the Old English ham and oh my god, these keep getting better and better. It wasn’t pronounced quite like ham, though. More like hawm. Which frankly only makes it better. It’s from the Proto Germanic haimaz, home, and can be traced back to the Proto Indo European tkoimo-. Yes, home once started with a T. And a K. It’s from the root word tkei-, to settle or be home, and is the origin for a weird number of other words, like haunt, hangar, and site. Okay, exactly none of those words have a K in it.

Abode showed up in the mid thirteenth century, but back then it only meant waiting, and it didn’t actually mean a residence until the late sixteenth century. It meant waiting because it came from abide, specifically the past tense of abide in Old English, abad []. Abide was actually abidan in Old English, meaning wait, but that a- at the beginning… isn’t supposed to be an a. The word is actually supposed to be gebidan (soft g there), to stay, although the ge- prefix is itself from the prefix a- (I know, it’s unnecessarily complicated), meaning onward motion here. The bidan part of the word is where we get bide, from the Proto Germanic bidan, to wait. I guess… you wait in your abode?

Residence showed up in the late fourteenth century, coming from the Old French residence, and Medieval Latin residentia. That word in turn is from the classical Latin resitentem, resident, and its verb form residere, to reside. If you look at reside, this etymology makes even more sense (a refreshing change of pace). When reside showed up in the late fifteenth century, it meant to settle or sit before it meant to dwell. Residere is actually a mix of the prefix re-, back again, and the Latin verb sedere, to sit, and that’s from the Proto Indo European root sed-, to sit. There’s another root word I’m definitely going to have to look into.

And that’ll be all for this week. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Interesting. It's so weird how words evolve. I wonder what some of the words of today will mean in a couple of centuries...

  2. Sure, you wait in your abode for death.
    That's what we're all doing.

  3. How often do we use the term abode anymore.

  4. I had to abode my time. Could have fun with that mess!

  5. Oh yea, comments work. (I was at school earlier, and Blogger wouldn't let me sign in for these kinds of comments. Not even on my own blog.)

    I guess if you abide somewhere long enough, it becomes an abode.

    Funnily enough, "hoos" is a pronunciation for house that my family uses. Not often. And jokingly. But enough that when I saw that, I recognized it.

  6. Interesting. Different shades of nuances too. I remember my English teacher explaining to us the difference between 'house' and 'home'.


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