Simply put, etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.
Etymology is an early 14th century word derived from Greek word etumologíā -- from étumon, meaning 'true sense', and logía, meaning 'study'. Effectively, etymology is a study of the true sense of words. Etymology is pronounced et-uh-mol-uh-jee.
In this new series, I'm looking at some common, everyday words and discuss their etymology . . . where they came from, their development, and how they're used today. This exercise is an effort to help you learn about the words we take for granted today, and how using the proper word will help enhance your writing, as well as your reading.
Today's word is CUPBOARD --
The term cupboard comes from the original cup board -- literally a board for storing cups. This term goes back to the 12th century as cuppebord when cups and mugs were stored on boards, often stacked on top of each other to save space. When needed, the boards were taken down one at a time, the cups staying on the board as the server transferred them into the kitchen or dining hall . . . why carry 3-4 cups at a time when a board of them gets the job done faster?
By the 16th century, these cup boards were incorporated into an enclosed box to keep them cleaner (ie: free from rodents). Over the centuries, these ‘cupboards’ or cabinets were also used to keep rodents out of food.
Synonymous with cupboard are terms such as larder, pantry, dresser and press --
The term larder comes from the 13th century French word lardier, a place where where lard and other fats (butter, cheese, cream, etc) were stored. Because this room would have been very cool, meats would also have been stored here.
The larder should not be confused with a buttery though, which was originally a separate room where cream was churned into butter, and quite often where cheese was made. If storage space was limited in the buttery, then these items would have been stored in the larder.
The term pantry comes from the 13th century French word paneterie which is where bread and other baked good were stored, aka a bread room. The word paneterie gets its meaning from the word pain, the French word for bread . . . pain de beurre (bread with/and butter). Many people today still use the term pan when referring to sliced sandwich bread or bread baked in a traditional bread pan.
Today the word pantry serves multiple meanings--
The pantry is a room between the kitchen and dining room where food underwent final preparation before serving . . . ensuring plates were free of drips around the edges and generally that the presentation was good and the food still hot . . . and all there! It wouldn't do to have a hungry servant sneaking food off the plates of his lord and master ;-)
A pantry in today’s kitchen a tall and deep cupboard used to store tins and boxes of storable food items. Often times, this type of storage unit has shelves on the doors, and the interior has swinging doors of shelves that allow for further storage at the very rear of the cabinet.
A pantry can also be a small room lined with shelves for added storage and may also house a chest freezer and/or spare fridge (BTW, did you know fridge was derived from the refrigerator manufacturer Frigidaire? Fridge has become synonymous with all refrigerators, just as Hoover has with the vacuum). Or a modern pantry can be a tile-lined 'cold room' acting as a modern day larder.
The word dresser come from an 18th century French and Dutch words, dressoir, which means dresser. In this context, an enclosed cabinet with shallow shelves for storing cups and dishes.
Country style dressers included a display area on top of an enclosed cabinet so the lady of the house could display her best crockery. Sometimes country dressers included a caged area on the bottom where chickens were kept. The lady of the house either used the eggs in her own cooking , or she raised chickens and collected eggs to sell at the local market for what was called 'pin money' . . . paper notes of which were usually pinned inside the woman's clothing for safety! This is also where we get the phrase 'cottage industry'!
The word press comes from the Irish word prios which is a non-specific word for a place/cabinet/container to store things. Today, a press in Ireland is anything from the cabinets in your kitchen to your bedroom closet, and also a closet with shelves which also contained the hot water heater/immersion tank, also known as an airing cupboard for clothes or anything else you want to keep warm and dry.
How will you know the origin of words? Generally speaking, the origin can often be found in the word itself, such as cup board. When in doubt, Google 'entymology + the word' and it will all come clear.
I hope you'll enjoy this new series. If there's a word you'd like to know more about, email me and I'll add it to a future post.
Thanks for stopping by!