It's the day after Christmas (at least when I'm writing this), and the malls are undoubtedly full of disgruntled shoppers like yourself waiting to return those Smurf parasols. What was Uncle Frank thinking? As you go about your business today, bear in mind the etymology of return; it's a little something to keep you sane during the hassle. The first time return meant "something sent back" was in the nineteenth century, but the word itself has stuck around since the fifteenth century, and is obviously a combination of the prefix re- and the word turn. Since Roman times, the prefix re- has always been translated as something along the lines of "again". However, the etymology of turn is much more in-depth. In Old English, it may be traced back to turnian "to rotate or revolve", where neither spelling nor definiton hace deviated too much. This came from the French word tourner, which denoted the action of turning something on a lathe (a turning thing used to cut stuff). This went through Latin and Greek as tornus and tornos, respectively, which both meant lathe and caused the verb through the wonderful art of metynomy. The Greeks had to get this word from somewhere, so they filched it from PIE and the word tere, which could be defined as "to rub", since when something is put on a lathe, it is rubbed against the blade. Tere is also the progenitor of today's common word throw; just a fun fact.
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.