25 Interesting And Somewhat Strange Word Origins

Posted by on May 15, 2014

Did you know that the word “mortgage” comes from a French expression meaning “death pledge”? These are 25 interesting and somewhat strange word origins.


Jumbo was most likely originally the word for "elephant" in a west African language. It took on the meaning of "large" when an elephant in London zoo was named Jumbo in 1860


Quarantine comes from the French "qarante" for 40. Whenever a ship arriving in port was suspected of being infected it had to forego contact with the shore for a period of about 40 days.


Hazard comes from the Arabic "al zahr" which means "the dice". The term came to be associated with dice during the Crusades and eventually took on a negative connotation because games of dice were associated with gambling


Disaster comes from the Greek "dis" meaning bad, and "aster", meaning star. The ancient Greeks used to blame calamities on unfavorable planetary positions.


Lemur comes from a Latin word that means "spirit of the dead". The person that named them cited their nocturnal nature as a source of influence.


Loophole (or murder hole) originally referred to the slits in castle walls that archers would shoot their arrows through.


Nice comes from a Latin word meaning "ignorant"


Muscle comes from a Latin root meaning "little mouse". Apparently people used to think muscles looked like little mice under their skin.


War comes from a Germanic root that meant "to confuse"


Heresy comes from a Greek word meaning choice


Pamphlet comes from the title of a Latin love poem called Pamphilus that was supposedly passed from person to person


Lunatic is derived from the Latin word "luna" meaning "moon". It originated from the belief that insanity is caused by changes in the moon.


Berserk comes form ancient Norse fighters that were known as Berserkers


Jeans were named after their place of origin, Genoa, Italy.


Curfew comes from a combination of two French words – "couvrir" and "feu". Literally this means to "cover fire".