The word morgue was borrowed in the late eighteenth century from French, where it described a very specific building in Paris called La Morgue which was used to display unidentified bodies, especially recovered drowning victims from the Seine. Before that, La Morgue served as a room where newly incarcerated Parisian prisoners were identified. The name is thought to be from the French word morgue, meaning "haughtiness" or "pride", likely in reference to the smug expressions of the jailers processing the criminals. That traces to the Old French verb morguer, which meant something more along the lines of "to look solemnly". Morguer traces to Vulgar Latin murricare ("to make a face") and murrum (meaning "snout"; likely from a Celtic language) - what an interesting series of etymological developments!
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.