The word bassoon was first recorded in English in a 1728 dictionary and became widely used throughout the late eighteenth century. The word was taken from French basson, which in turn came in the seventeenth century from Italian bassone. This comes from the word basso, meaning "bass", with the augmentative suffix -one. Going further back, basso traces to the Medieval Latin adjective bassus, meaning "low", and there are several theories regarding the ultimate origin, all of them quite interesting (it might be Celtic, or Oscan, or Greek, but nobody is quite sure). Interestingly, the Italian word for bassoon is not bassone anymore but fagotto, meaning "bundle of sticks", because bassoons can be disassembled into several parts for carrying. This is related to the similar-sounding homophobic slur in English and the word fascist, both of which were associated with bundles of sticks.
When the word oboe was first used in the late sixteenth century, it was spelled hautboy. This spelling, along with other forms like hawboy, hoeboy, and hautboi, was replaced by oboe around the late 1700s due to influence from Italian, where it had lost the h. The word comes from a phonetic spelling of French hautbois, which can best be translated as "high-pitched woodwind" in this context. It comes from two separate words: haut, meaning "tall", and bois, meaning "wood". Haut, through Latin altus, comes from the Proto-Indo-European root hel, "to nourish". Bois is a linguistic relative of bush, bouquet, and the city of Boise, Idaho; it comes from the Latin word for "forest", boscus, and that, through Proto-Germanic buskaz, ultimately derives from Proto-Indo-European buh, "to grow".
In etymology, a nonce formation is a word extemporaneously coined for a specific purpose. In other contexts, the word nonce can refer to an arbitrary number in cryptography or serve as a slang word for "pedophile". The last meaning might be from the unrelated word nancyboy, but the first two definitions come from the still-in-use phrase for the nonce, meaning "for the present". However, around the twelfth century, this was spelled for than ance! This corresponds to "for the once" in modern words, with than being an altered form of the dative declension of the. As that meaning of than got increasingly rarer, people assumed that the spelling was wrong as is and actually had to be the, so the n got moved to the start of the next word in a process linguists call "rebracketing".
When the word seersucker was first used in a 1722 historical magazine, it was spelled sea sucker, and other spellings around the time included seesucker, sirsaka, and searsucker. These forms all hint at the word's origin from Hindi sirsakkar, and they looked so weird because people didn't know how to properly transliterate it. Sirsakkar comes from the Persian phrase sir o sekar, which meant "milk and sugar", apparently a reference to the alternating stripes of the textile. Sir, which I recognize as being related to the Serbian word for "cheese" (also sir), comes from the Proto-Indo-European root suhros, meaning "salty" or "bitter". Meanwhile, sekar, which is related to pretty much every European word for "sugar" that you can think of, comes from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction karkeh, meaning "gravel".
The word tradition was first used in the 1384 John Wycliffe Bible, where it was spelled tradicioun and meant "the action of imparting something". Other forms around that time included tradicyon, tradycion, tradycyon, tradicion, tradicion, and more; the t in the center didn't get added until around the seventeenth century. Tradicioun comes from an Old French word meaning "handing over" and eventually traces to the Latin noun traditionem, which meant "give up" or "surrender", an action that clearly became more figurative as the word developed. That's based on the verb tradere ("to hand over"), which was composed of the prefix trans-, meaning "across", and the root dare, "to give". Finally, those respectively derive from the Proto-Indo-European roots tere ("to cross over") and do ("to give").
When the word crony (also spelled cronie, chrony, cronee, and croney at first) emerged in university slang between 1665 and 1666, it didn't have the negative connotations of today, but was instead an affectionate term for "friend", much like "mate" or "chum". This is not, as some people claim, related to the word crone (which comes from an Anglo-French word for "carcass"), but comes from the Greek word khronios, meaning "long-lasting", on the notion that good friends are long-lasting. That's an adjectival form of khronos, meaning "time", and might trace to the Proto-Indo-European root sek, "to cut". The word cronyism is from the mid-nineteenth century, when it just meant "friendship", and that took on a sense of "appointing friends to important positions" about a hundred years later.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior 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.