The word bastard was borrowed at some point during the mid-fourteenth century from Old French, when it had the very specific meaning of "recognized illegitimate child of a nobleman". Later on, it referred to any kid born out of wedlock, and that eventually took on a pejorative sense, giving us the even more frequently used definitions of "terrible person" or "mongrel". Interestingly, a weakened connotation of "male friend" also emerged in the twentieth century, to be used in phrases such as lucky bastard and poor bastard. The Old French noun most likely originated from the phrase fils de bast, which meant "packsaddle son" (a "packsaddle" being a kind of traveling bed that bastards were thought to be conceived on), and the suffix -ard. Bast might trace to a Latin word meaning "carry".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a sophomore studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, and law.