Folk etymology or reanalysis – sometimes called pseudo-etymology, popular etymology, or analogical reformation – is a change in a word or phrase resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familiar one. The form or the meaning of an archaic, foreign, or otherwise unfamiliar word is reanalyzed as resembling more familiar words or morphemes. Rebracketing is a form of folk etymology in which a word is broken down or "bracketed" into a new set of supposed elements. Back-formation, creating a new word by removing or changing parts of an existing word, is often based on folk etymology.
The term folk etymology is a loan translation from German Volksetymologie, coined by Ernst Förstemann in 1852. Folk etymology is a productive process in historical linguistics, language change, and social interaction. Reanalysis of a word's history or original form can affect its spelling, pronunciation, or meaning. This is frequently seen in relation to loanwords or words that have become archaic or obsolete.
Examples of words created or changed through folk etymology include the English dialectal form sparrowgrass, originally from Greek ἀσπάραγος ("asparagus") remade by analogy to the more familiar words sparrow and grass, or the word burger, originally from Hamburg + -er ("thing connected with"), but understood as ham + burger.
The technical term "folk etymology" refers to a change in the form of a word caused by erroneous popular beliefs about its etymology. The English word is a translation of the German term Volksetymologie, coined by Ernst Förstemann. Förstemann noted that in addition to scientific etymology based on careful study in philology, there exist scholarly but often unsystematic accounts, as well as popular accounts for the history of linguistic forms. Until academic linguists developed comparative philology and described the laws underlying sound changes, the derivation of words was a matter mostly of guess-work. Speculation about the original form of words in turn feeds back into the development of the word and thus becomes a part of a new etymology.
Believing a word to have a certain origin, people begin to pronounce, spell, or otherwise use the word in a manner appropriate to that perceived origin. This popular etymologizing has had a powerful influence on the forms which words take. Examples in English include crayfish or crawfish, which are not historically related to fish but come from Middle English crevis, cognate with French écrevisse. Likewise chaise lounge, from the original French chaise longue ("long chair"), has come to be associated with the word lounge.
Rebracketing is a process of language change in which parts of a word that appear to be meaningful (such as *ham in hamburger) are mistaken as elements of the word's etymology (in this case, the word ham). Rebracketing functions by reanalyzing the constituent parts of a word. For example, the Old French word orenge ("orange tree") comes from Arabic النرنج an nāranj ("the orange tree"), with the initial n of nāranj understood as part of the article.
In back-formation a new word is created, often by removing elements thought to be affixes. For example, Italian pronuncia ("pronunciation; accent") is derived from the verb pronunciare ("to pronounce; to utter") and English edit derives from editor. Some cases of back-formation are based on folk etymology.
In linguistic change caused by folk etymology, the form of a word changes so that it better matches its popular rationalisation. Typically this happens either to unanalyzable foreign words or to compounds where the word underlying one part of the compound becomes obsolete.
There are many examples of words borrowed from foreign languages, and subsequently changed by folk etymology.
The spelling of many borrowed words reflects folk etymology. For example, andiron borrowed from Old French was variously spelled aundyre or aundiren in Middle English, but was altered by association with iron. Other Old French loans altered in a similar manner include belfry (from berfrei) by association with bell, female (from femelle) by male, and penthouse (from apentis) by house. The variant spelling of licorice as liquorice comes from the supposition that it has something to do with liquid. Anglo-Norman licoris (influenced by licor "liquor") and Late Latin liquirītia were respelled for similar reasons, though the ultimate origin of all three is Greek γλυκύρριζα (glycyrrhiza) "sweet root".
Reanalysis of loan words can affect their spelling, pronunciation, or meaning. The word cockroach, for example, was borrowed from Spanish cucaracha but was assimilated to the existing English words cock and roach. Jerusalem artichoke, from Italian girasole, is a kind of sunflower; it is not related to artichokes and does not come from Jerusalem. The phrase forlorn hope originally meant "storming party, body of skirmishers" from Dutch verloren hoop "lost troop". But confusion with English hope has given the term an additional meaning of "hopeless venture".
Sometimes imaginative stories are created to account for the link between a borrowed word and its popularly assumed sources. The names of the serviceberry, service tree, and related plants, for instance, come from the Latin name sorbus. The plants were called syrfe in Old English, which eventually became service. Fanciful stories suggest that the name comes from the fact that the trees bloom in spring, a time when circuit-riding preachers resume church services or when funeral services are carried out for people who died during the winter.
A seemingly plausible but no less speculative etymology accounts for the form of Welsh rarebit, a dish made of cheese and toasted bread. The earliest known reference to the dish in 1725 called it Welsh rabbit. The origin of that name is unknown, but presumably humorous, since the dish contains no rabbit. In 1785 Francis Grose suggested in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue that the dish is "a Welch rare bit", though the word rarebit was not common prior to Grose's dictionary. Both versions of the name are in current use; individuals sometimes express strong opinions concerning which version is correct.
When a word or other form becomes obsolete, words or phrases containing the obsolete portion may be reanalyzed and changed.
Some compound words from Old English were reanalyzed in Middle or Modern English when one of the constituent words fell out of use. Examples include bridegroom from Old English brydguma "bride-man". The word gome "man" from Old English guma fell out of use during the sixteenth century and the compound was eventually reanalyzed with the Modern English word groom "male servant". A similar reanalysis caused sandblind, from Old English sāmblind "half-blind" with a once-common prefix sām- "semi-", to be respelled as though it is related to sand. The word island derives from Old English igland. The modern spelling with the letter s is the result of comparison with the synonym isle from Old French and ultimately Latin insula, though the Old French and Old English words are not historically related. In a similar way, the spelling of wormwood was likely affected by comparison with wood.:449
The phrase curry favour, meaning to flatter, comes from Middle English curry favel, "groom a chestnut horse". This was an allusion to a fourteenth-century French morality poem, Roman de Fauvel, about a chestnut-colored horse who corrupts men through duplicity. The phrase was reanalyzed in early Modern English by comparison to favour as early as 1510.
Words need not completely disappear before their compounds are reanalyzed. The word shamefaced was originally shamefast. The original meaning of fast "fixed in place" still exists but mainly in frozen expressions such as stuck fast, hold fast, and play fast and loose. The songbird wheatear or white-ear is a back-formation from Middle English whit-ers "white arse", referring to the prominent white rump found in most species. Although both white and arse are common in Modern English, the folk etymology may be euphemism.
Reanalysis of archaic or obsolete forms can lead to changes in meaning as well. The original meaning of hangnail referred to a corn on the foot. The word comes from Old English ang- + nægel ("anguished nail" or "compressed spike"), but the spelling and pronunciation were affected by folk etymology in the seventeenth century or earlier. Thereafter, the word came to be used for a tag of skin or torn cuticle near a fingernail or toenail.
Several words in Medieval Latin were subject to folk etymology. For example, the word widerdonum meaning "reward" was borrowed from Old High German widarlōn "repayment of a loan". The l → d alteration is due to confusion with Latin donum "gift".:157 Similarly, the word baceler or bacheler (related to modern English bachelor) referred to a junior knight. It is attested from the eleventh century, though its ultimate origin is uncertain. By the late Middle Ages its meaning was extended to the holder of a university degree inferior to master or doctor. This was later re-spelled baccalaureus, probably reflecting a false derivation from bacca laurea "laurel berry", alluding to the possible laurel crown of a poet or conqueror.:17–18
In the fourteenth or fifteenth century French scholars began to spell the verb savoir ("to know") as sçavoir on the false belief it was derived from Latin scire "to know". In fact it comes from sapere "to be wise".
The Italian word liocorno "unicorn" derives from 13th-century lunicorno (lo "the" + unicorno "unicorn"). Folk etymology based on lione "lion" altered the spelling and pronunciation. Dialectal liofante "elephant" was likewise altered from elefante by association with lione.:486
The Dutch word for "hammock" is hangmat. It was borrowed from Spanish hamaca (ultimately from Arawak amàca) and altered by comparison with hangen and mat, "hanging mat". German Hängematte shares this folk etymology.
The Finnish compound word for "jealous" mustasukkainen literally means "black-socked" (musta "black" and sukka "sock"). However, the word is a case of a misunderstood loan translation from Swedish svartsjuk "black-sick". The Finnish word sukka fit with a close phonological equivalent to the Swedish sjuk 
An example from Persian is the word shatranj (chess), which is derived from the Sanskrit chaturanga (2nd century BCE), and after losing the "u" to syncope, becomes chatrang in Middle Persian (6th century CE). Today it is sometimes factorized as sad (hundred) + ranj (worry / mood), or "a hundred worries".
The development of Late Latin liquiritia was in part influenced by Latin liquēre 'to flow', in reference to the process of treating the root to obtain its extract.
Acamas or Akamas (; Ancient Greek: Ἀκάμας, folk etymology: "unwearying") was a name attributed to several characters in Greek mythology. The following three all fought in the Trojan War, and only the first was not mentioned by Homer.
Acamas, son of Theseus, mentioned by Virgil as being in the Trojan horse.
Acamas, son of Eussorus, from Thrace. With his comrade Peiros, son of Imbrasus, Acamas led a contingent of Thracian warriors to the Trojan War. He was killed by Ajax. Acamas was also the brother of Aenete and Cyzicus.
Acamas, son of Antenor, fought on the side of the Trojans and killed one Greek.
Acamas, one of the suitors of Penelope.
Acamas, one of the Thebans who laid an ambush for Tydeus when he returned from Thebes. He was killed by Tydeus.
Acamas, an Aetolian in the army of the Seven Against Thebes.
Acamas, a soldier in the army of the Seven against Thebes. When the two armies attack each other at the gates of the city, the hard-hearted Acamas pierces the Theban horseman Iphis.
Acamas, one of Actaeon's dogs.
Acamas or Acamans, a Cyclops that lived in the company of Pyracmon or Pyragmon in Pelorum (north-east coast of Sicily).Carajillo
A carajillo is a Spanish drink combining coffee with brandy, whisky, or anisette. It is typical of Spain and according to folk etymology, its origin dates to the times when Cuba was a Spanish province. The troops combined coffee with rum to give them courage (coraje in Spanish, hence corajillo and more recently carajillo).
There are many different ways of making a carajillo, ranging from black coffee with the spirit simply poured in to heating the spirit with lemon, sugar and cinnamon and adding the coffee last.
A similar Italian drink is known as caffè corretto.
The American version of a Spanish coffee uses a heated sugar rimmed Spanish coffee mug with 3⁄4 oz (21 g) rum and 1⁄2 oz (14 g) triple sec. The drink is then flamed to caramelize the sugar. 2 oz (57 g) coffee liqueur is then added which puts out the flame, and then it is topped off with 3–4 oz (85–113 g) of coffee, and whipped cream.
In Mexico carajillos are usually made with espresso (or some other type of strong coffee) and "Licor 43" – a sweet vanilla-citrus flavored liquor– and poured over ice on a short glass. Its commonly drunk as a digestive after meals.Culhwch
Culhwch (Welsh pronunciation: [kʉlˈhuːχ], with the final consonant sounding like Scottish "loch"), in Welsh mythology, is the son of Cilydd son of Celyddon and Goleuddydd, a cousin of Arthur and the protagonist of the story Culhwch and Olwen (the earliest of the medieval Welsh tales appended to Lady Charlotte Guest's edition of the Mabinogion). In this tale the etymology of Culhwch is explained as "sow run" (cul "narrow, a narrow thing"; hwch "sow, pig"), but this is likely to be folk etymology. According to the narrative, Culhwch is born to his maddened mother Goleuddydd after she is frightened by a herd of swine. The swineherd finds Culhwch in the pigs' run, and takes him back to his father Cilydd. Culhwch is described as being "of gentle lineage".False cognate
False cognates are pairs of words that seem to be cognates because of similar sounds and meaning, but have different etymologies; they can be within the same language or from different languages. For example, the English word dog and the Mbabaram word dog have exactly the same meaning, but by complete coincidence. Likewise, English much and Spanish mucho which came by their similar meanings via completely different origins. This is different from false friends, which are similar-sounding words with different meanings, but which may in fact be etymologically related. (For example: Spanish dependiente looks like dependent, but means sales assistant or clerk as well.)
Even though false cognates lack a common root, there may still be an indirect connection between them (for example by phono-semantic matching or folk etymology).False etymology
A false etymology (popular etymology, etymythology, pseudo-etymology, or par(a)etymology), sometimes called folk etymology – although the last term is also a technical term in linguistics – is a popularly held but false belief about the origin or derivation of a specific word.
Such etymologies often have the feel of urban legends, and can be much more colorful and fanciful than the typical etymologies found in dictionaries, often involving stories of unusual practices in particular subcultures (e.g. Oxford students from non-noble families being supposedly forced to write sine nobilitate by their name, soon abbreviated to s.nob., hence the word snob). Many recent examples are "backronyms" (acronyms made up to explain a term), as in snob, and posh for "port outward, starboard homeward"; many other sourced examples are listed in the article on backronyms.Flidais
Flidas or Flidais (modern spelling: Fliodhas, Fliodhais) is a female figure in Irish Mythology, known by the epithet Foltchaín ("beautiful hair"). She is believed to have been a goddess of cattle and fertility. In the recent past she has been popularly rendered as a woodland goddess akin to the Greek Artemis and Roman Diana, though scholars now believe this to be incorrect. She is mentioned in the Metrical Dindshenchas as mother of Fand and in the Lebor Gabála Érenn as the mother of Fand, Bé Chuille and Bé Téite. In the Middle Irish glossary Cóir Anmann ("Fitness of Names") she is said to be the wife of the legendary High King Adamair and the mother of Nia Segamain, who by his mother's power was able to milk deer as if they were cows. This association with deer, and her subsequent attribution as a woodland goddess is based on an unlikely medieval folk etymology of her name as "flid ois" or "wetness of a faun." This etymology may have been an effort to conflate Flidais with the deer maiden, Sadhbh from the Fenian Cycle. The myths relating to Fliodhais overwhelmingly focus only on cattle and milking.
Flidais is a central figure in Táin Bó Flidhais ("The Driving-off of Flidais's Cattle"), an Ulster Cycle work, where she is the lover of Fergus mac Róich and the owner of a magical herd of cattle. The story, set in Erris, County Mayo tells how Fergus carried her and her cattle away from her husband, Ailill Finn. During the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) she slept in the tent of Ailill mac Máta, king of Connacht, and every seven days her herd supplied milk for the entire army. In Táin Bó Flidhais she has a favoured white cow known as "The Maol" which can feed 300 men from one night's milking. Another Ulster Cycle tale says that it took seven women to satisfy Fergus, unless he could have Flidais. Her affair with Fergus is the subject of oral tradition in County Mayo.Forseti
Forseti (Old Norse "the presiding one," actually "president" in modern Icelandic and Faroese) is the god of justice and reconciliation in Norse mythology. He is generally identified with Fosite, a god of the Frisians. Jacob Grimm noted that if, as Adam of Bremen states, Fosite's sacred island was Heligoland, that would make him an ideal candidate for a deity known to both Frisians and Scandinavians, but that it is surprising he is never mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus.Grimm took Forseti, "praeses", to be the older form of the name, first postulating an unattested Old High German equivalent *forasizo (cf. modern German Vorsitzender "one who presides"). but later preferring a derivation from fors, a "whirling stream" or "cataract", connected to the spring and the god's veneration by seagoing peoples. It is plausible that Fosite is the older name and Forseti a folk etymology. According to the German philologist Hans Kuhn the Germanic form Fosite is linguistically identical to Greek Poseidon, hence the original name must have been introduced before the Proto-Germanic sound change, probably via Greek sailors purchasing amber. The Greek traveller Pytheas of Massalia, who describes the amber trade, is known to have visited the region around 325 BC.Glasgow, West Virginia
Glasgow is a town in Kanawha County, West Virginia, USA, along the Kanawha River. The population was 905 at the 2010 census. Glasgow was incorporated on June 20, 1920. Folk etymology derives its name from a combination of the word "glass" with the word "company" for a glass factory that was built there many years ago, but the presence of many Scottish immigrants to this part of Appalachia, particularly from the Strathclyde region, indicates that the town was most likely named after the Scottish city of Glasgow in Strathclyde. Other Virginia and West Virginia locations named for places in Strathclyde include Dumbarton, Argyle, Loudoun County, Hamilton in Loudoun County, Lanark and Renfrew.Honeywagon (vehicle)
A honeywagon is the slang term for a "vacuum truck" for collecting and carrying human excreta. These vehicles may be used to empty the sewage tanks of buildings, aircraft lavatories and at campgrounds and marinas as well as portable toilets. The folk etymology behind the name 'honeywagon' is thought to relate to the honey-colored liquid that comes out of it when emptying the holding tanks.Jesus H. Christ
"Jesus H. Christ" is an expletive interjection referencing Jesus Christ. It is typically uttered in anger, surprise, or frustration, though sometimes also with humorous intent.Kilan
Kilan (Persian: كيلان, or more properly, Kailan, also Romanized as Kīlān; also known as Kilun) is a city in the Central District of Damavand County, Tehran Province, Iran. At the 2006 census, its population was 3,038, in 913 families.The name is derived from the Tati tribe of Kailan/Khailan/Gailan who were settled in this region in tati period. Only still speak Tati language (Iran). The local folklore, however, produces a folk etymology for the now mysterious name as "meaning ' Kingsplace.
In the mountain area of Kilan, leftovers were found from people living there about eighteen thousand years ago. The mountains around the town, like Dar Ali, are scattered with remainders from the Cenozoic.
As of 2006, there are around 3,000 inhabitants, with a remarkably high (75%) of the inhabitants of the city having academic degrees.List of Germanic deities
In Germanic paganism, the indigenous religion of the ancient Germanic peoples who inhabited Germanic Europe, there were a number of different gods and goddesses. Germanic deities are attested from numerous sources, including works of literature, various chronicles, runic inscriptions, personal names, place names, and other sources. This article contains a comprehensive list of Germanic deities outside the numerous Germanic Matres and Matronae inscriptions from the 1st to 5th century CE.Muskellunge
The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), also known as muskelunge, muscallonge, milliganong, or maskinonge (and often abbreviated "muskie" or "musky"), is a species of large, relatively uncommon freshwater fish native to North America. The muskellunge is the largest member of the pike family, Esocidae. The common name comes from the Ojibwa word maashkinoozhe, meaning "ugly pike", by way of French masque allongé (modified from the Ojibwa word by folk etymology), "elongated face." The French common name is masquinongé or maskinongé.Oldham, Missouri
Oldham is an unincorporated community in Boone County, in the U.S. state of Missouri. Folk etymology states the community was named after Asa Old, a local merchant who sold old hams.Penknife
A penknife, or pen knife, is a British English term for a small folding knife. Today the word penknife is the common British English term for both a pocketknife, which can have single or multiple blades, and for multi-tools, with additional tools incorporated into the design.Originally, penknives were used for thinning and pointing quills to prepare them for use as dip pens and, later, for repairing or re-pointing the nib. A penknife might also be used to sharpen a pencil, prior to the invention of the pencil sharpener. A penknife did not necessarily have a folding blade, but might resemble a scalpel or chisel by having a short, fixed blade at the end of a long handle. One popular (but incorrect) folk etymology makes an association between the size of a penknife and that of a small ballpoint pen.
During the 20th century there has been a proliferation of multi-function knives with assorted blades and gadgets, including; awls, reamers, scissors, nail files, corkscrews, tweezers, toothpicks, and so on. The tradition continues with the incorporation of modern devices such as ballpoint pens, LED torches, and USB flash drives.The most famous example of a multi-function penknife is the Swiss Army knife, some versions of which number dozens of functions and are really more of a folding multi-tool, incorporating a blade or two, than a penknife with extras.A larger folding knife, especially one in which the blade locks into place, is often called a claspknife.Romanian months
The traditional Romanian calendar has its own names for the months, which are otherwise identical to those of the Gregorian calendar. In modern Romania and Moldova, the latter exclusively is used for business and government transactions, and predominates in popular use as well. Nevertheless, the traditional names of the months do appear in some contexts, for instance on ecclesiastical calendars produced by the Romanian Orthodox Church.
All the names of the months are of Latin origin, which indicates that their use predates the Slavic contact around the 8th century. Six months have their names derived from characteristics of the months. Five are derived from the Latin names now used in the Gregorian calendar (and earlier in the Julian calendar). However, each of these has a folk etymology and an additional meaning. The last month, December, derives its name from that of Saint Andrew.Rule of thumb
The English phrase rule of thumb refers to a principle with broad application that is not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. It refers to an easily learned and easily applied procedure or standard, based on practical experience rather than theory. This usage of the phrase can be traced back to the seventeenth century, and has been associated with various trades where quantities were measured by comparison to the width or length of a thumb.
A modern folk etymology holds that the phrase derives from the maximum width of a stick allowed for wife-beating under English law; this belief may have originated in a rumored statement by the eighteenth-century judge Sir Francis Buller that a man may beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb. The rumor produced numerous jokes and satirical cartoons at Buller's expense; however, there is no record that he made such a statement.
The English jurist Sir William Blackstone wrote in his Commentaries on the Laws of England of an "old law" that once allowed "moderate" beatings by husbands, but did not mention thumbs or any specific implements. While wife beating has been officially outlawed for centuries in England and the United States, it continued in practice; several nineteenth-century American court rulings referred to an "ancient doctrine" that the judges believed had allowed husbands to physically punish their wives using implements no thicker than their thumbs.
The exact phrase rule of thumb first became associated with domestic abuse in the 1970s, after which the spurious legal definition was cited as factual in a number of law journals, and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights published a report on domestic abuse titled "Under the Rule of Thumb" in 1982.Stono Mountain
Stono Mountain is a summit in St. Francois County in the U.S. state of Missouri. The mountain rises to an elevation of 1,644 feet (501 m). Mineral City lies along the headwaters of Doe Run Creek just to the east on Missouri Route W and Little Stono Mountain lies to the north.Stono Mountain possibly takes its name from the Stono River in South Carolina, although folk etymology maintains stones in the area caused the name to be selected.Šiupyliai
Šiupyliai is a small village in Šiauliai district, Lithuania, with a population of 324 according to the 2011 census. It has a wooden church, built in 1924 and named after Saint Aloysius Gonzaga. According to folk etymology, village's name is derived from supiltas (from "pour") in reference to a nearby hill fort.