Thursday, February 6, 2020

Language of Confusion: Homing, Part II

Now with even more homes.

Now, really this word is obviously related to part, which is another word I have to get to at some point, but we’ll just focus on the apartment part for now. It showed up in the mid seventeenth century basically meaning private rooms for a person/family within a house—essentially what it is today. It comes from the French appartement, which is from the Italian appartamento and its verb form appartere, to separate. The prefix a- means to and the rest is from the classical Latin partem, which means, well, part, unsurprisingly. It’s from the Proto Indo European pere-, to grant or allot. So an apartment is a part of a building.

This one showed up in the mid fifteenth century, from the Old French domicile and classical Latin domicilium, domicile. That’s thought to be related to domus, which means home, but it’s another one of those things that isn’t sure in spite of the fact that it makes 100% perfect sense. It’s also thought to be related to the verb colere, to cultivate, which is actually the origin word for colony. So there’s that.

Shelter showed up in the late sixteenth century, and it’s thought to be a variation on the Middle English sheltron/sheldtrume, and oh my god, we could have had sheltron as a word and for some reason we don’t. Anyway, it’s from the Old English scyldtruma, where scyld means shield and truma, troop. So a shelter is a troop of shields??? That’s one theory. There’s a lot of debate about that, though.

Lodge showed up in the thirteenth century as loggen, to set up camp (as a verb), or as logge, a place or last name before turning into a regular noun. It comes from the Old French loge/logier, which is from the Frankish laubja, shelter, and Proto Germanic laubja-, also shelter. Before that, it’s actually thought to be from the Proto Indo European leub(h)-, to peel, strip, or break off, which happens to be the origin word of leaf. Well, probably. Look, these words are really, really old and people weren’t good about keeping records.

Hut showed up in the mid seventeenth century, from the French hutte, hut, which was taken from the Middle High German hütte, cottage or hut. That’s thought to be from the Proto Germanic hudjon-, which is related to hide (like, to hide, not an animal hide (didn’t I just say this last week? (yes, I totally did!))) and the Proto Indo European (s)keu-, to cover or conceal.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English


  1. Since huts are often found on islands, what did the Samoans call them? (There's a challenge for you - the native word for hut around the world.)

  2. It makes 100% perfect sense? Then that can't be it. You've done this long enough to know that ;)

  3. Those actually make sense! And Alex, the Samoan word for 'hut' is fale (pronounced 'fah-lay'). Most Pacific languages have a variation of that as their word for it. In Maori it's whare (pronounced 'fah-ray').


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