Thursday, February 16, 2023

Language Of Confusion: Verse, Part VII

It’s seven, right? It’s been so long I can’t remember. There are a LOT of words that come from the Proto Indo European wer-to turn or bend. The ones this week all have a bit of a theme to them.
First, wrest—and of course wrestle, which spawned from it, though back then they only meant to twist or wrench, then meaning to pull or detach in the fourteenth century and then take by force in the fifteenth. Wrest comes from the Old English wraestan, and wrestle from wraestlian, both with the same meanings we use for them. Before that, they’re from the Proto Germanic wraistjan, from wreik-, to turn, which is from wer-. Wrestling does involve a lot of bending and twisting. The word wriggle is actually surprisingly close. It has an actual time period it showed up in, the late fifteenth century, from the Middle Low German wrigglen, from the Proto Germanic wrig-. That’s from wreik-, just like wrestle.
And speaking of wrench, it comes from the Old English wrencan, to twist. The tool of course came after the verb, all the way in 1794, and hey, it makes sense, wrenches are for twisting things open and closed. The word is from the Proto Germanic wrankjan, from the Proto Indo European wrengh-/wergh, to turn, a spawn of wer-. There’s also wring, which comes from the Old English wringan, which is again from wreng/werg. Funny how different (well, kind of) they turned out.
Then there’s writhe, which comes from the Old English wriþan, same definition. It’s from the Proto Germanic writhanan, which is wreit- in PIE, from wer-. Finally, there’s wrangle, which showed up in the late fourteenth century related to wrestle, but then in 1897 started being used in American English in reference to horses. It comes from the Low German wrangeln and Middle Low German wringen, and before that the Proto Germanic wrang-, which is from wrengh-/wergh-. You know, again.
TL;DR: all the verse words related to twisting have very little variance in their origins.
Online Etymology Dictionary
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
In Depth Germanic Language Studies


  1. And wrestling also involves a lot of cheesy overactive and fake blood.

  2. it all makes sense. I get suspicious when it all makes sense.

  3. Okay, makes sense. Next week will be really weird, right?


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