I don't know what I was expecting for the etymology of caboose, but this wasn't it. Turns out that the word I and many other North Americans associate with "last railcar of a train" used to mean "ship's cookhouse" and got applied to locomotives in the nineteenth century because cabooses usually held eating facilities for the train crew. Just a simple matter of applying one established transportation term to a new invention in a fledgling different method of transportation, but then the older definition died out. The older definition, by the way, comes from the Middle Dutch word for "ship's gallery", kabuis. That in turn derives from Low German kabhuse, which may incorporate the same elements as the words "cabin" and "house", but etymologists aren't too sure if that's true, or what comes after it otherwise.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University, where I founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. I also have disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.