When the word oboe was first used in the late sixteenth century, it was spelled hautboy. This spelling, along with other forms like hawboy, hoeboy, and hautboi, was replaced by oboe around the late 1700s due to influence from Italian, where it had lost the h. The word comes from a phonetic spelling of French hautbois, which can best be translated as "high-pitched woodwind" in this context. It comes from two separate words: haut, meaning "tall", and bois, meaning "wood". Haut, through Latin altus, comes from the Proto-Indo-European root hel, "to nourish". Bois is a linguistic relative of bush, bouquet, and the city of Boise, Idaho; it comes from the Latin word for "forest", boscus, and that, through Proto-Germanic buskaz, ultimately derives from Proto-Indo-European buh, "to grow".
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.