The word toggle was first attested in 1769, with the specialized nautical meaning of "a pin passed through the eye of a rope". Nobody's a hundred percent sure where that come from, but some etymologists theorize that it might be connected to the word tug. What's far more interesting than that, though, is how the word developed after it was adopted. Toggle bolt is another sailing term referring to a fastener that spreads out the weight of an item- that was coined in 1794. By 1836, a verb form developed, meaning "to secure with a toggle or toggle bolt". In 1934, we finally move onto land, as toggle was attested in a context meaning "wall fastener" of any kind, and history was made in 1936 when toggle switch (the up-and-down kind) was coined. This development, which came about because the switch looked a lot like a toggle, was important because it influenced all the future meanings. In 1979, toggle was first used in reference to computers, for a key which turns something on and off, and in 1982, it came to mean "alternate between actions". Usage of the word toggle today is almost three times what it was a hundred years ago- and it's all because of the development of computing.
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