The word browser was first used in 1845 to refer to animals that feed on high-growing plants, drawing on a now-rare definition of the the verb browse - "to eat buds and leaves". By the 1860s, the noun was metaphorically extended to people looking for goods, and the computer definition is from 1982, on the basis that when you're using it you're browsing for information. The verb browse comes from the Old French verb broster, which meant "to sprout". That's from Proto-Germanic brustiz, meaning "shoot" or "bud", and ultimately derives from Proto-Indo-European brews, "to swell". That same root yielded the words "brisket" (through Old Norse brjosk, "cartilage") and "breast" (through Old English breost), because both involved swelling, apparently. Browse has steadily been increasing in literary usage over time, but browser rapidly overtook it in the 1990s, peaking in use in the year 2000.
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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.