The word pirate was adopted in the 1300s to refer to someone who robs ships, and by the late fifteenth century it could be metaphorically applied to people on land, as well. It became a verb in the 1570s, was first connected to plagiarism in 1603, and the first mention of pirate radios is from 1913. Through Old French, the noun was taken from Latin pirata, and that evolved from Ancient Greek peirates, "one who attacks". The root there is the verb peiran, which more literally meant "to attempt" (the connection was that attacks are attempts to cause harm). Eventually, that derives from Proto-Indo-European per, meaning "cross". One famous relative of peira is the English word empirical, which came to us on a notion of experimentation being done through multiple attempts.
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.