The berry part of the word cranberry is obvious, but what in the world is a cran? We can trace the archaic prefix back to the noun's first usage in 1672, when it referred to the North American plant. It seems that the colonists had some German influence, because they named it after a similar plant in central Europe that was called kraanbere in Low German. The kraan part of that meant "crane" like the bird, possibly due to a perceived resemblance between the plant's stamens and the beaks of cranes, although that's unsure. The word, which is a cognate of English crane, derives from Proto-Germanic krano (still "crane") and eventually the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction gerh, meaning "to cry hoarsely". Bere, which is likewise related to English berry, probably derives from Proto-Indo-European beh, meaning "shine" or "glisten". Looking at Google Trends, search frequency for cranberry consistently peaks every November, which is unsurprising but still interesting to me.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy philosophy, trivia, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.