Thursday, May 27, 2021

Language Of Confusion: Eating

There are times when I’m running out of ideas, so I just pick something and do anything I can think of that’s related to it. And that’s why we’re looking at eating related stuff today.
Eat itself comes from the Old English etan, to eat. That’s from the Proto Germanic etan, which is from the Proto Indo European root ed-, to eat or to bite. Unlike some of these root words, ed- isn’t in a whole lot of words we still use. It is however part of edible, which comes to us by way of Late Latin instead of going the Germanic route.
Food comes from the Middle English foode/fode, from the Old English foda, which just means food []. It’s from the Proto Germanic fodon, which is from the Proto Indo European pa-, to protect or feed. That word’s actually part of a lot of different words, not all related to food (seriously, things like fur and company are in there), and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that that’s where feed comes from. Feed has a slightly different origin than food, but only in the sense that it’s clearly a different tense of the word. It’s fedan in Old English, from the Proto Germanic fodjan, and that word is also from pa-. And don’t ask about the P to F thing. It’s just a weird thing that happened to a lot of words in Germanic languages.
Devour showed up in the early fourteenth century—hey, an actual time frame! It’s from the Old French devorer, from the classical Latin devorare, to swallow. The de- means down, and vorare is to swallow—devour is to swallow down. Vorare can also be traced to the Proto Indo European gwora-, food or devouring, and that word’s the origin of pretty much any word with “vore” in it. Also, never, ever look up vore on the internet. Listen to me: do not do it.
Next, we’re going to look at chew. It showed up in Old English as ceowan, to chew or chomp. It’s from the West Germanic keuwwan, and that’s thought to be from the Proto Indo European gyeu-, to chew. I mean, that would make sense. Which is probably why you shouldn’t trust it.
Finally today, let’s go look at munch, which is definitely a funny word to say. It showed up in the early fifteenth century as a variation of the word mocchen and… that’s about all we know for sure. It might be from the Old French mangier, and it might be from the classical Latin manducare, to eat. We don’t actually know. It’s just another one of those words that people liked saying and it could be from anywhere, or just made up back in the Middle Ages.
Online Etymology Dictionary
Google Translate
University of Texas at Austin Linguistic Research Center
University of Texas at San Antonio’s page on Proto Indo European language
University of Texas at Arlington
Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English
Old English-English Dictionary
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Orbis Latinus


  1. Most of these are straight forward.

  2. These all seem remarkably simple. That can't be right...

  3. Okay, now I'm curious about vore...

    Just the other day I was curious about the etymology of some word and I thought to ask you. And now I've completely forgotten what the word was. I was driving along... Nope, not coming to me.

  4. I never realised food and feed are so close!


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