Monday, September 28, 2009

Whence 'jewelry'?

Yesterday someone found this blog by searching for "where did the word 'jewelry' come from?". I realized that they had probably gone away unsatisfied. Since I do have full access to the Oxford English Dictionary online, and since this is a nice intersection of linguistics and jewelry, I'll answer! (Although, please note, I never really did etymology, even though etymology questions are the ones I get asked most frequently. Well, etymology and, "Do you have this in a different color?" But since I'll be here till my dying day waiting for someone to ask me about, say the semantics of temporality in Swahili, which was what I used to spend my time on, linguistics-wise...well, I'll take it where I can get it, is what I'm saying.)

'Jewelry' is historically composed of 'jewel' + 'ery'. (The British spelling makes this clearer, 'jewellery'). 'Jewel' in turn is from Old French joel (found around the 12th century). Where the Old French came from is still a bit of an open question, but probably from either Latin gaudium or jocare . '-ery' just turns a verb into a noun-- originally it was used with only words of French origin, but generalized a bit after that to words of English origin, too. It's the same -ery you'll find in 'bravery', 'cutlery', 'treachery', 'bakery', 'pottery'....

There you go! Here at My Word! we have (or can find) the answers to all your linguistics-related jewelry questions, and your jewelry-related linguistics questions.

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