It seems so obvious now, though I never would have guessed it earlier. The word varsity, referring to the highest tier of sports in high school or college, comes from the word university! This will come as no shock to people outside of North America, as Anglophone countries on all other countries still use that as slang for "university". That, however, was transcended in the US where I live, making it all the more interesting. This whole formation was a dialectical matter, a word shift based on an accent that occurred way back in the early 1800s. Before then, the word university came from the Old French word universite, from Latin universitas, from universus, a word which meant "entire" or "whole" (this referred to colleges being entire communities of scholars). This is a portmanteau, of uni-, meaning "one" (from Proto-Indo-European oynus, "one"), and versus, meaning "turn" (from Proto-Indo-European wertti, "turn around"). Together, this "one turn" made something "whole", figuratively speaking.
Mesoamerican natives have been eating chocolate since about 300 BCE, and it therefore is a huge part of their culture. A part that, luckily for the rest of the world, was passed on to the Spanish from them, along with the word , which subsequently diffused into English. The conquistadors got the word from the same source as that of the chocolate -the Aztecs- where, in Nahuatl, it was chocolatl, with the same meaning. Since the language was not recorded at the time, tracing a further origin is difficult, but there are some theories. Most etymologists familiar with the topic believe that the suffix -atl is from the Nahuatl word for "water" (sometimes spelled athl), but the first part of the word is somewhat debated. It could be from the Mayan word chocol (meaning "hot") or Nahuatl xococ (meaning bitter, sometimes spelled xocolli) or Nahuatl chicolli (a cooking utensil), or Nahuatl chicol (meaning "beaten"), or many, many other candidates. Due to the complexity and obscurity of language, we will never know for sure.
We salute to greet people, and when we greet people, we often wish them good health. A similar logic influenced the etymology of salute, which came from the Latin welcoming salutare, itself from the root salus, meaning "good health", which is what ancient Romans would wish each other. Salus is from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction solh, which meant "whole", whole being a still-used metaphor for "healthy". Now, the best part about salute is all of its linguistic relatives. The opening line I use in all my YouTube videos, for instance, is salutations, which also derives from salutare. The Spanish word for "health", salud, also comes from salutare, and French salut comes from salus. And, if we're willing to philologize as far back as the PIE root, salvation and safety are also connected. Pretty cool, right?
Most people have never stopped to consider where the word jester comes from. It's obviously a formation from the verb jest, meaning "to joke", but here it gets interesting. In Old English, though still spelled jest, the word meant "cannibalize"! This is because of an ancient folk tale about a jester who went crazy and ate the entire king's court (a story thought to be based on actual events in 900s Denmark), and so the word got metonymically applied. This has clear Germanic origins: jest comes from Old Norse jessir, which meant "obey", because one must obey Death (also, incidentally, the etymon of the affirmative yessir, a confirmation of obedience, itself the root of yes and sir). Finally, jessir is from Proto-Indo-European jehk, which vaguely meant "follow", so not that much of a stretch there. Fascinating as that is, jester has a hidden relative from those cannibalistic times! That Old English word, jest, underwent a lot of transformations. Since it was a story about a king's court, the word also got applied to the royal family as jestalty. In Middle English, this underwent the variations of restalty and roystalty until finally settling in Modern English as the word royalty. The fool and the king are distantly related through a cannibalistic origin. This is so believable!
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a 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.