Machine – That which gives power

Machine – An apparatus using mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task. The word ‘machine’ dates back to the 1540s, it came across from French, where the word meant the same as it does today. ‘Machine’ is derived from the Latin word ‘machina’ meaning ‘machine’…

Mace – Mallet

Mace – A heavy club with a spiked metal head. The word ‘mace’ comes from Old French and is originally derived from the Latin word ‘mateola’ which meant ‘Mallet’.

Macabre – Jewish rebels

Macabre – Disturbing because concerned with or causing a fear of death. Macabre is derived from the Latin word ‘Maccabees’ – who were the leaders of a Jewish rebel army that took control of Judea in around 164 BCE (Maccabee was a family name). The Greeks thought they were pretty horrid and used the phrase…

Lunatic – From Latin, meaning ‘moon struck’

Lunatic is actually from the Latin ‘lunaticus’, with ‘luna’ meaning ‘moon’ and ‘ticus’ meaning ‘struck’, giving us ‘moon-struck’. Referring to perceived periodic changes of mental stability of the mentally ill, in line with the phases of the moon. The word travelled through 13th century French as ‘lunatique’ to become ‘lunatic’ today.

Loophole; named for the small holes through which archers would fire

Loophole: Is made up of ‘Loop’, which actually originates in the Latin ‘loupa’, later ‘loupe’ in middle English, which meant a small window. And ‘hole’, which comes from the proto-Indo-European (PIE) word ‘kel’, which later became ‘hul’ in early German and ‘hohl’ in modern German. Today loophole is used to mean an almost unnoticeable hole…

Ketchup: Chinese fish sauce

Ketchup has a fairly recent etymology but has still come a long way in that short time. The word comes from a 17th century Chinese term ‘kê-chiap’ meaning ‘Brine’ and referred to a sauce made from pickled fish and spices. 18th century British explorers visiting the region brought the term (and the sauce) to England…

Christmas: Dismissal from celebrating the rubbed one.

Christmas: The annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus, celebrated on the 25th of December. The word ‘Christmas’ can be traced to the old English word ‘Crīstesmæsse’, first recorded in 1038. ‘Crīstesmæsse’ combining two words; ‘Crīst’ and ‘mæsse’. The word ‘Crist’ meant ‘The annointed one’ and was in use to describe Jesus of Nazareth from…

Jerkin: likely meaning day jacket

Jerkin: A close fitting jacket, usually without sleeves, worn by men in the sixteenth and seventeenth century. I have had a request for the origin of the word ‘Jerkin’, the word itself can be traced back to circa 1510 CE but unfortunately its origins are uncertain. The most likely origin is the old French word…

Phrase: Hair Of The Dog

If you’re feeling a little delicate after a night of drinking last night, someone may have recommended that you try the ‘Hair of the dog’; more alcohol the day after heavy drinking – but why is it called that? The phrase is short for ‘Hair of the dog that bit me’; to find the origins…