In earlier dialects of English and in Anglo-Norman, the word venom ("animal poison") was alternately spelled venim and venym. Before that, in Old French, it was either venim or venin, but in Vulgar Latin it was definitely venimem, from regular Latin venenum. Here it gets interesting, because venenum took some surprising semantic shifts in a short segment of time. Most recently, it had the modern definition, but as we go backwards in time and trace the definition, the meaning goes to "potion" (just a skip, hop, and a jump from "poison"), then to "drug" (not a stretch from "potion"), then to "love potion" (which arguably includes being drugged), then finally to "seduction" (which is what a love potion entails). One step at a time, the definition logically grew little by little away from its first meaning. Etymology is so cool! The earliest, "seduction" form of venenum probably is from Proto-Indo-European wenh, "love". Love to venom. It's ironic if you consider how many relationships follow this simple etymological rule.
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.