LIVING ON VICTUALS
The word victual (often seen in plural form) refers to food or other provisions necessary for survival. It's pronounced vittle, which seems really bizarre at first, but none of the original spellings (such as the Middle English attestations vitail, vittle, vytall, vituale, vitall) had a c in them. The letter was added in the sixteenth century to make the word look more like the Latin root, but the pronunciation remained the same. Victual was borrowed in the early 1300s from Old French vitaille, and that's from Latin victualia, with the same definition. That traces to the word victus, meaning "that which sustains life", and victus is a past participle of vivere, "to live". Finally, it's all reconstructed to the Proto-Indo-European root gwei, also "to live". Literary usage of victual has been steadily declining since the 1620s, and many now consider it archaic.
1/16/2022 08:58:54 pm
THANK YOU hugely for tracing "victuals/vittles" all the way back o Lat. viv--. Several other sites only went back to eg 13th c. French--not at all my idea of an answer to "Hmmm...where did that infrequently-encountered word come from?"
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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.