Thursday, November 17, 2022

Language Of Confusion: Feeling Ill

It is flu season after all.
Ill showed up in the thirteenth century, though back then it meant something that was morally evil. In the mid fourteenth century, it shifted to mean something “marked by evil intentions”, and it wasn’t until the mid fifteenth century that it started to mean unhealthy. As to its origins, it comes from the Old Norse illr, though anything before that is unknown.
You might think ail would be related to ill, but it’s not. Ail comes from the Middle English eilen/alien, from the Old English eglan, to afflict, pain, or trouble, so pretty much what it means today. It’s from the Proto Germanic azljaz, which is from the Proto Indo European agh-lo, from the root agh-, to be depressed or afraid. Appropriate, huh?
Nausea showed up in the early fifteenth century straight from the classical Latin nausea, which, you know, means nausea. Apparently they took it from the Ionic Greek word nausea, which is from naus, ship, from the Proto Indo European nau-, boat, a word I’m definitely going to have to look at because it has a ton of offshoots. Anyway, because people get sick on boats, we have nausea.
Speaking of being nauseated, queasy showed up in the mid fifteenth century, generally referring to food that upset your stomach, then in the mid sixteenth century anything that upset your stomach. Its origin is actually unknown, though there are theories that it’s related to the Old Norse kveisa, a boil (because the phrase iðra kveisa means bowel pains), or it might be related to the Anglo French queisier and Old French coisier, to wound or make uneasy. But, you know, etymology. So maybe not.
Ague is a word we don’t hear much of. It showed up in the fourteenth century meaning an acute fever, then a fever that caused chills and shivering. It comes form the Old French ague and Medieval Latin febris acuta, which literally means fever and sharp. Acuta is from the Proto Indo European root ak-, sharp, so when fevers are sharp, you have ague.
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
Dictionary of Medieval Latin
Encyclopaedia Britannica
Fordham University

1 comment:

  1. (Check the first sentence of your third paragraph. And now I've doomed this comment to have at least one error in it.)

    I see ague in historical fiction a lot. It's a useful descriptor though, reading the definition.


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