The Wingding font exists because it was essentially an early version of emojis: when somebody needed a graphic character inserted into early- and pre-Internet text, they would use fonts like this to do that. At this point, it's little more than an obsolete nuisance, but it's worth exploring where the word Wingding comes from. And to do that, you need to understand something important about the Wingding font: it is a dingbat, the blanket term for that type of pre-emoji font I just discussed. Since it was purchased by Windows, the words were combined to create Wingding. Cool! Now a little more on the dingbat. It's a printing term (later extended to computing, obviously) dating back to the early 1900s and referring to an ornamental letter used in headings, like those fancy Old-English style characters from ancient manuscripts. Nobody knows how that term got applied, nor any of its relatives: dingbat also had meanings such as "muffin", "Chinaman", "money", "woman", "penis", and "fool", among others. It was first attested in 1838, meaning "an alcoholic beverage", and sort of devolved into a jack-of-all-trades sort of word... and its major legacy involves the writing of other words.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a rising junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.