Nobody can agree on the origins of the word falcon. We know for sure that it deviated around in earlier English as faulcon and faucon after coming from the Old French word falcun and Latin falco, But here the split occurs. Is the word a conjugation of the prior Latin word falx, which meant "sickle" or "scythe" (a kind of curved sword; this origin describes the talons of the bird), or is it from Frankish falko, which meant "falcon" and "hawk"? Falx, which may be more likely because Latin words normally don't come from Germania, may be Etruscan or from another non-IE family, but it retains the definition as we go back in time. Falko, which may be correct because of its phonemic and morphemic similarities (but it could be related, not the source), would come from Proto-Germanic falko, from Proto-Indo-European poi, which meant "pale", supposedly describing the plumage of the birds. We won't find out which meaning it is for sure unless philologists spend a really long time looking at hard-to-find records, and (sadly) it's likely they won't bother.
No, Cameroon the country wasn't named after a guy called Cameron. It's not even an indigenous appellation, as some might assume. Nope, it's a shortening of Portuguese rio dos camaroes, or "river of shrimp", which was named for the obvious reason that the Portuguese found shrimps in the local rivers, and, delighted, they named the whole region after them. Well, sonce shrimp look like midget lobsters, camaroes derives from the Latin word cammarus, or "lobster". This in fact is from a Greek word with multiple forms (including kammaris, kamaros, kammoron, and kammoros) and multiple definitions: it meant both "lobster" and "shrimp", displaying a sort of regression that occurred as the word evolved. Kammoros, which seemingly was the most common form, is probably from Pre-Greek, then Proto-Hellenic, then PIE, as many Greek words are. Kammoros also lead to future words such as Italian gambero ("prawn"), Spanish camaron ("shrimp"), and other words for "shrimp" in less significant tongues.
The word independence is basically a mess of affixations. It's from French independance, in which the suffix -ance was attached to the preexisting word independant, in which the prefix in- (sort of like "not" in this situation) was attached to the preexisting word dependant. This is from the verb dependre, which meant "depend" or "belong" and in which the prefix de- (which was used to create antonyms) was attached to verb pendre, or "to hang", since something hanging depends on whatever's supporting it. Pendre is from its Latin cognate pendere, from Proto-Italic pendeo and finally from the Proto-Indo-European pend, which meant "to stretch or pull", because something hanging is quite obviously being pulled by a rope or stretched out by gravity. The redcoats should've used this reasoning to explain why all who wanted independence should hang. Also, whoever attached two prefixes and two suffixes to pedre should hang.
The word harlot is a slightly archaic term for "immoral woman" and is often a euphemistc term for "prostitute". However, it didn't always carry that meaning. When harlot entered English around the 1200s CE, it described an "unscrupulous man", occasionally just a "man" in general! The former definition was more used, albeit, and this resulted in the word being extended to cover all kinds of immoral people, and from that just women. The modern definition was cemented when Bible translations in the 1500s used harlot as a translation for "prostitute". Anyway, the word itself came to us from a French word for "male tramp", which took various forms, including harlot, arlot, and herlot. Now, the origin for this is uncertain, but some philologists theorize that it is rooted in the Proto-Germanic harjaz, which meant "army" but also "soldier" (possibly how the "male" definition came about) and would be from PIE ker, also "army". A French word from Proto-Germanic is less common than from Latin, but still frequent because of the muddles of the Franks and all.
Happy World UFO day! The first use of the word alien as meaning "extraterrestrial" was in 1953 in a science fiction magazine. Before that it meant "foreigner", a definition that also still exists today. Much before, it came into English in the fourteenth century from French aliene, from the Latin word alienus, which also meant "foreigner" but earlier had a more literal meaning of "belonging to someone else". This is from alius, which meant "other" (and is the direct etymon of alias, "other name", through Latin alias). It is then theorized that this could all go back to the Proto-Indo-European root al, which meant "beyond". There is some debate about this, however; sonce we're just reconstructing this, it may also be something like el or hel. Whatever the case, that same root lead to the Proto-Germanic root aljaz ("other" as well), which lead to the Old English word elles, which had a similar definition and was the forefather of the adverb else. All these words aren't alien; they're nothing else than the aliases of one root word!
Whenever a politician or celebrity gets tricked into a scandal, it's etymologically appropriate. Scandal is a direct borrowing from the Middle French word scandale, which may be traced to the Latin word scandalum (meaning "temptation"), from the Greek word skandalon, which had the curious and lengthy definition of "a trap laid for an enemy" and since traps resulting in scandal often involve temptations, you can see hiw all this fits together. However, earlier on, this "trap" took on a more literal meaning and skandalon was actually used in reference to a specific type of spring-loaded trap. Since this trap made things shoot high up, it is therefore unsurprising that skandalon gies back to the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European root skand, or "to jump". Interestingly enough, the Latin word scandalum that we visited earlier also created another French word, escalandre, which meant "a scandalous statement" and is in fact the progenitor of our word slander. I love etymology!
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.