Another term for groundhog is woodchuck, but the -chuck part used to refer to a different animal: the marten, or fisher, is a carnivorous mustelid that sort of shares a resemblance to the woodchuck, an animal associated with wood. So, where does chuck come from? Algonquian Native American languages. It is theorized that it either comes from the Cree word otchek or the Ojibwa word otchig, both still meaning "martin". The wood- part of woodchuck is pretty obvious and boring, but here goes: through Old English widu, meaning "forest", this comes from the Proto-Germanic word widu, which comes from the Proto-Indo-European root widhu, still with the same definition. Also, let me spoil things for you and tell you that chuck, meaning "throw", comes from French choquer, meaning "to strike", and the word could comes from a Proto-Indo-European root sounding like gno and meaning "to know", so the question how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood can be rewritten as how much widhu gno a widhuotcheck choquer if a widhuotcheck gno choquer widhu and translated to "how much forest know a forest marten strike if a forest marten know strike forest". Language is so malleable! Happy Groundhog Day!
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.