Psst! Did you know that the word gossip has very familial origins? The definition kind of changed throughout English: instead of "rumor-mongering", as it is today, gossip in Middle English just meant "idle talk". Even earlier (now in the form gossib), it meant "confidant", because you engage in idle talk with people you can confide in. In Old English as godsib, it meant "godparent",specifically, because a godparent is also a confidant. This is a portmanteau of god and sib, the latter of which meant "kin" (and, yes, is the etymon of sibling, "brother or sister", just with the addition of the suffix -ling). We've already explored god in an earlier post, but sib, which earlier took the form sibb, traces to the reconstructed Proto-Germanic root sibjaz, which meant "related" and ultimately goes back to Proto-Indo-European swe, or "self". Fascinating!
Adam Aleksic is a sophomore studying linguistics and government at Harvard University. He also has disturbing interests in politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.