The word capricious (meaning "apt to suddenly change mood or behavior") was first used in the 1590s, when it meant "whimsical", and the modern definition emerged about a decade afterwards. It comes from the French word capricieux, meaning "whimsical", and that's from Italian cappricio, which could translate to "whim", "shivering", "tantrum", "or sudden start" (you may recognize it as a musical term, and the source of caprice). Interestingly, cappricio is from the words capo, meaning "head", and riccio, meaning "curly" or "frizzled". The reason for this is uncertain, but the two main theories I could find are that shivering people were thought to have frizzled hair or that there was a historical association with capricious people and curly hair. I've written about the etymology of capo extensively in the past: it is related to cabbage, capitol, precipitate, chef, cattle, recap, and many more words. Riccio, however, is new to me. It comes from the Latin word for "hedgehog", ericius, and that ultimately derives from Proto-Indo-European gher, also "hedgehog".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior 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.