When the word emerald was first being used in Middle English, it was spelled emeraude, emeraundis, emerawd, or emraud, and, in Shakespeare's time, forms like emrauld and emrold were widely used. Sometime in the eighteenth century, emerald became the most popular form, and it's now being used in literature more than ever before. The noun came from Old French esmeraude, which is from an unattested Vulgar Latin word sounding something like smaraldus or smaraudus. That in turn comes from Ancient Greek smaragdos or maragdos, which could refer both to the gem and to malachite, and, earlier on, was just used to represent dark green colors. The current theory is that maragdos derives from the Proto-Semitic word bariq, meaning "lightning" (the initial b was turned into a nasal and the q turned into a g), due to a connection of both things "shining". There were a lot of really cool spelling changes taking place there!
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.