Thursday, July 12, 2007

Tools of the Trade II

In which we examine the derivation of three words, care of the Dictionary of Word Origins by Joseph Shipley. (If you missed Tools of the Trade I, you can find it here.)

Where do you think these words came from?

Bizarre
Black
Eureka

“Bizarre” is taken from the French, Spanish and Portuguese bizarro, meaning handsome and brave. The Basque word bizarra meant beard, “as a sign of a swashbuckler.” Over time, the term shifted from dashing and courageous to its current connotations. (BTW, Shipley does not offer any information on the origins of the word “swashbuckler.” Such a great word! I’ll have to look it up and report on it someday in “Tools III.”)

“Black” is related to the French words blac and blanc and the English words blank, blanket, blanch and bleach. In other words, white! That is because people used to associate both black and white with the absence of color. Wild, eh?

“Eureka” is more than just a fun word to shout out (though it certainly is that). It comes from the Greek word heureka, which means found and also is related to the word heuretics, which is the logical art of discovery.

3 comments:

SamRiddleburger said...

Wow, I've never known what heuristics menat - despite stumbling over it in books I've never had the nerve to look it up.

now I'll have an easy way to remember it -- eureka!

LindaBudz said...

Yeah, one day I need to do a post on the meanings of words I stumble over. It'll be a long post!

elysabeth said...

Way cool - it's always nice to learn something new - and I would have never thought of black associated with the words that are meaning white - that was an interesting tidbit of info - thanks for sharing - E :)