The word manure today is a noun meaning "fertilizer", but in the den days it was a verb meaning "to fertilize". Before that, it was spelled something more like manuren and meant "to work on the farm" in general, and before that it was the Old French word manovrer, which meant "to do manual labour". These series of seemingly innocuous changes creating a wholly new definition would merit a blog post by themselves, but here it gets more interesting. Manovrer is also the source of today's word maneuver ("to move or work"); an easy connection to make but mind-blowing when you consider how closely it's related to manure. Anyway, manovrer comes from Latin manuopere, or "to work by hand", a combination of manus ("hand") and operaror ("to work"). Manus derives from the Proto-Italic word manus, from the Proto-Indo-European root men, both also meaning "hand". Operaror similarly retained its definition as it went back through Proto-Italic to Proto-Indo-European (the root op, in this case). Next time somebody discusses naval/military/Quidditch tactics with you, keep in mind that for ever maneuver, there's some animal dung at the end of that rainbow!
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd