Most people have never stopped to consider where the word jester comes from. It's obviously a formation from the verb jest, meaning "to joke", but here it gets interesting. In Old English, though still spelled jest, the word meant "cannibalize"! This is because of an ancient folk tale about a jester who went crazy and ate the entire king's court (a story thought to be based off actual events in 900s Denmark), and so the word got metonymically applied. This has clear Germanic origins: jest comes from Old Norse jessir, which meant "obey", because one must obey Death (also, incidentally, the etymon of the affirmative yessir, a confirmation of obedience, itself the root of yes and sir). Finally, jessir is from Proto-Indo-European jehk, which vaguely meant "follow", so not that much of a stretch there. Fascinating as that is, jester has a hidden relative from those cannibalistic times! That Old English word, jest, underwent a lot of transformations. Since it was a story about a king's court, the word also got applied to the royal family as jestalty. In Middle English, this underwent the variations of restalty and roystalty until finally settling in Modern English as the word royalty. The fool and the king are distantly related through a cannibalistic origin. This is so believable!
Adam Aleksic is a 220-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