Sunday Book Nook #3 – Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary

One of my geekiest qualities is my love of language. I have always loved words, how they fit together and in particular, where it might have come from. Fairly often, I’ll just stop in the middle of a conversation or a page, because the cogs just start twirling about one word and its origins.

This sometimes leads to conversations that go like this:

Asha playing Skyrim: “Hello Jarl. Yyyyaarl. Yeeee-arrrrl. Eeeearl. Hm. Oh! I bet that’s related to ‘earl’!” (correct).

Or, Asha watching The Apprentice: “Hey, that oud looks like a lute! Ooh! What if the English comes from the Arabic through French? Oud! L’oud! Lute!” (I was wrong on the coming through French, it’s just a corruption, but they are related).

When I have these flashes of inspiration/noise-mangling, I reach for a wonderful book, which is what I’m going to show you today:

P1000814P1000815Chambers’s Etymological English Dictionary is a fantastic book that contains, as well as definitions, basic notes on how each word developed in the English language. My edition was a gift from my grandmother for my 20th birthday, and I’ve used it so often since then!


It’s not in the most incredible condition, but for a book from 1884, that’s not half bad! It’s obviously well-loved, and I am continuing to love it…


Avalanche: from the Latin, ad vallem (into the valley). It falls down a mountain into the valley.


Coconut – looks a bit like a face.

This is one of my favourite things in my library, if only because after 130 years, it’s still so useful! I also find some of the outdated descriptions very very funny, and sometimes just dip into it for a few minutes to amuse myself. Chambers’s Etymological Dictionary is still in print, but I’m glad I have this lovely old copy.

Asha x


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