The word newt wasn't widely used before the eighteenth century. Before that, it was spelled nute, neuft, newte, neuette, neuet, and newet, among other variations. The only constant things were a letter n at the beginning and a t towards the end... or were they? In Middle English, there actually wasn't an n in front, and it only got added because of confusion with indefinite articles. Essentially, people back then were saying an ute, an euft, an ewte, and so on so much that they rebracketed the words into a nute, a neuft, and a newte, respectively. Eventually, that derives from Old English efete, which still had the same meaning. Nobody's quite sure where that came from, because there are no cognates to compare with. Analyzing the Google Trends patterns for the word newt is really interesting: it peaks in early 2012, when Newt Gingrich was running for president.
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.