Thursday, January 27, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Guarded, Part IV

Okay, this should be the last one on words descended from wer-, a Proto Indo European word meaning to perceive or watch out for. Prepare for weirdness.
First of all: revere. Yeah. It showed up in the mid seventeenth century, so relatively recent, though reverence came much earlier in the late thirteenth century. Revere coming from the French révérer, which just means revere, and is from the classical Latin revereri, which also just means to revere. Reverence is slightly different, coming from the Old French reverence and classical Latin reverentia, again, just reverence, and that’s also from revereri. That word is a combination of re-, probably just intensive, and vereri, to be in awe of. And that’s the one that happens to come from wer-. I guess I can see perceive/watching becoming to be in awe of, though it’s kind of a stretch.
And if there’s reverence, there’s also irreverence. That showed up in the mid fourteenth century—with irreverent showing up two centuries later—from the Old French irreverence and classical Latin irreverentia, which I bet you can guess where that comes from. The ir- prefix comes from in-, not or opposite of, so while reverence is awe, irreverence is the opposite of awe. How sensible.
Now, what other word has revere in it? Oh, just reverend. It showed up in the early fifteenth century meaning something worthy to be revered, which quickly got adopted to a member of the clergy (eyes rolling into the back of my head here). It comes from the Old French reverent/reverend, from the classical Latin reverendus, which means reverend or honored. I guess I can see the logic even if I don’t agree with it.
Obviously I’m going to save the best for last, and in this case, it’s the word lord. Really! It showed up in the mid thirteenth century, where it was sometimes spelled laverd or loverd, wow. That’s from the Old English hlaford, a lord, and that was supposed to be a translation of the Latin dominus, master. Hlaford itself is actually a contraction of hlafweard, which is made up of two words: hlaf, which means… bread??? Um, okay, anyway, the other half of the word is weard, which I went over weeks ago when I was talking about guard and ward, because it means guardian or watchman. A lord is a bread guard, because somehow that’s a translation of the Latin word for master.
I can’t even.
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
Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English
Old English-English Dictionary


  1. Somebody has to keep an eye on those pesky loafs!

  2. The last one is indeed the best! Can believe a lord is a bread guard!!!

  3. Considering that the lord made sure people ate or not... And now I can see how the Scottish got laird.

  4. Love it! When we revere someone and call them m'lord, we're actually bowing down to the guardian of bread.


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