Many people already know that kindergarten is German for "children's garden". But let's go a little more in-depth. The word was invented by Thuringian educator Friedrich Froebel in 1840 to describe preschool, where he wanted children to grow naturally and bloom, like plants in a garden (thus the name). The word is a portmanteau of kinder ("children") and garten ("garden"), two words so close to their English cognates that you are left with no doubt that both tongues are West Germanic siblings. Kinder is a conjugation of kind, "child", which is from Proto-Germanic kunjam, "family" (also the forebear of our modern word kin, through Old English cynn, also "family"), ultimately deriving from Proto-Indo-European gene, "to give birth". Meanwhile, garten was developing from Old High German garto, changing definition from the earlier Proto-Germanic gardo, "hedge", which in turn came from Proto-Indo-European ghordhos, also "hedge". Kindergarten ended up being such a clever idea that the concept and the word were borrowed into English in 1852. The rest is history.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.