Tag Archives: Geoffrey Chaucer

paramour

    MEANING   a lover, especially the illicit partner of a married person     ORIGIN   Derived from Old French par amour, par amur, meaning by, or through, love, the English adverb par amour, later written as one word, appeared around 1250 in Floris and Blancheflour in the phrase to love par amour, […]

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galaxy

galaxy

  the Milky Way – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Jurvetson       The noun galaxy appeared in Middle English in the sense of the Milky Way, the diffuse band of light stretching across the night sky that consists of millions of faint stars, nebulae, etc., within our Galaxy. The first known user of this word […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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jeopardy

jeopardy

  Jeopardy. This word is supposed to be derived from ‘j’ai perdu’, or ‘jeu perdu’. Skinner and Junius. Hazard; danger; Peril. A word not now in use. A Dictionary of the English Language (1785 edition), by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) There are two errors: the noun jeopardy is not from French j’ai perdu (I have lost) or jeu perdu […]

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on the qui vive

on the qui vive

  Chaucer reciting – early 15th-century manuscript of Troilus and Criseyde (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)       MEANING   on the alert, attentive     ORIGIN   The French phrase qui vive ? literally means (long) live who?. It is a sentry’s challenge, intended to discover to which party the person challenged belongs, with […]

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nightmare

nightmare

  Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825) – Der Nachtmahr (1790)       The noun mare, which appeared in early Old English, denoted a spirit believed to produce a feeling of suffocation in a sleeping person or animal, hence also a feeling of suffocation experienced during sleep, and an oppressive or terrifying dream. Unrelated to mare in […]

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glabella

glabella

  title page of A tracte containing the artes of curious paintinge, caruinge & buildinge (1598)       MEANING   anatomy: the smooth part of the forehead above and between the eyebrows     ORIGIN   This noun is a specific application of the Latin adjective glabella, feminine of glabellus, diminutive of glaber/glabr-, meaning […]

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idiot

idiot

  Geoffrey Chaucer (circa 1342-1400) as a pilgrim – from the Ellesmere Manuscript, an early 15th-century illuminated manuscript of the Canterbury Tales       MEANING   A stupid person     ORIGIN   Via Old French, the English noun idiot is from Latin idiota, meaning uneducated, ignorant, inexperienced, common person. This Latin noun was […]

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danger

danger

  Shylock and Portia (1835) by the American painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872)     Through Old French dangier, danger, the English noun danger is from an assumed Late Latin form dominiarium, derivative of dominium, property, right of ownership, hence lordship, sovereignty, rule, from dominus, lord, master. The a in the Old French forms is probably […]

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orient

orient

  The Latin verb oriri meant, of persons, to rise, bestir oneself, get up, and, of heavenly bodies, to rise, become visible. Hence, as a noun, the present participle oriens/orientis denoted the rising sun and the quarter where the sun rises, the East, the Orient, as opposed to occidens/occidentis, the West, the Occident (the Latin […]

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