A few days ago, I wrote about the pejorative agent suffix -ard and how it shows up in several negative words, like drunkard, coward, and bastard. One word that I neglected to mention was the noun mallard, describing the type of duck. If you go back far enough, it comes from the Old French word malle, meaning "male", and -ard. At the time, the word referred not to a certain species of bird but to any male duck in general, and it appears that they were humorously spoken about in an insulting manner. Then the name for the specific type of duck emerged in the early fourteenth century, and the older definition was lost to the ages. Malle comes from Latin mas, which meant "male" and is thought to be from the Proto-Indo-European reconstruction meryos, "young man".
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.