The word knapsack (sometimes spelled knapsacke in its early days) was first attested in a 1603 history of the Second Barons' War. It was borrowed either from the Dutch word knapzak or from Middle Low German Knapsack. Either way, it comes from two Germanic elements: one looking like cnappen or knappen and meaning "to eat" and the word sack, which meant "bag", just like the identical word we use today. Earlier on, cnappen meant "snap" or "crack" - the sound was thought to be similar to those made while eating - and that's ultimately of onomatopoeic origin. Sack comes from Proto-Germanic sakkuz, Latin saccus, and Proto-Germanic sakkos, all also meaning "bag". Finally, that might be of Semitic, because etymologists have identified similar words in Hebrew and Egyptian.
3/27/2021 07:43:26 am
Huh, interesting! Knappen doesn't mean eating anymore in Dutch, but it still means snap/crack.
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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 trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.