The word hike has mysterious origins, but etymologists can definitely trace it back to the earlier English word hyke, or “to walk vigorously”. This term was first recorded in the dawn of the nineteenth century, but wasn’t commonly used until the dawn of the twentieth century. Beyond the origin of hyke, it’s hard for linguists to tell, but it may be connected to the Middle English word hicchen, or “to move” (also the root of hitch as in “a hobble”, which if true means that the phrase hitch hike actually means hike hike). This term is of equally obscure origin, which may not help us much. Both hitch and hike cannot be compared to other terms through philology, because of a lack of cognates. This suggests they might be connected, and with their semantic and phonemic correlations, it seems almost probable. This, however, is unproved and may be wishful thinking on my part, because I just want to say hike hike.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-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