TO SMOKE THROUGH
The other day, I heard someone use the word perfumigate, which I thought was rather clever (Urban Dictionary says it's the action of spraying perfume or cologne so liberally that the area smells worse). That's obviously a portmanteau of the words perfume and fumigate, and today I'll focus on perfume. The word only got associated with good smells in the 1530s, and before that it could refer to any smell in general. It was borrowed from Middle French parfum, and that came from the verb parfumer, meaning "to scent". Possibly through Occitan, Old Provençal, Italian, and/or Spanish, parfumer traces to the Latin prefix per-, meaning "through", and the root fumare, "to smoke". Per- we've seen before, but fumare derives from the Proto-Indo-European root duhmos, with the same definition.
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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.