Thursday, July 28, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Scorched

I can’t imagine what put me in the mind of etymologizing words related to what happens when it’s very, very hot outside.
Scorch itself showed up in the early fourteenth century as scorchen. Its history before that is kind of a question mark, though it might be related to the word scorcnen, which is make dry or singe, and is another word we don’t know the origin of—it might be from the Old Norse skorpna, to be shriveled, but who knows? Not us. Funnily enough, there was actually another version of scorchen in English meaning to strip the skin off of, but that one is separate, and isn’t used at all anymore. Which is too bad, really.
Dry comes from the Middle English drie, from the Old English dryge, which is dry with a g added to it. Before that, it’s from the Proto Germanic draugiz and the Germanic root dreug-, which all just mean dry. Drought of course is related, coming from the Old English drugaþ. It’s literally dry with the -th suffix (like the end of depth or strength) at the end. And for some reason, they kept the g even after they stopped pronouncing it.
Another one with no date attached, thirst comes from the Old English þurst, and if you remember that þ is just th, then you’ll realize the word is just thirst. It comes from the Proto Germanic thurstu-, which is traced back to the Proto Indo European ters-, to dry. I’ll have to etymologize words descended from that one, because there are a lot of them, some quite amusing.
Parch showed up in the late fourteenth century, but its origin is uncertain, because words related to drying out apparently fall out of thin air. One thought is it comes from parchment, and, I mean, parchment is dried, isn’t it? You’d really think they have to be related, but it’s etymology. Who knows?
Desiccate showed up in the mid sixteenth century from the classical Latin desiccatus, dried, and its verb form desiccare, to dry up. The de-, means thoroughly here, and siccare is to dry, so the word is to really dry. About time one of these words made sense.
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. Appropriate for the present circumstances.

  2. Gee, have you been thirsty?

    It looks like Feedly hasn't been getting your posts lately. Weird. That's why I missed stopping by yesterday. Sorry.

    1. FYI: This post just popped up in my Feedly feed as of about 15 minutes ago (along with a couple others). Maybe the Feedly issue is fixed?


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