Given our propensity for redundancy, we English speakers have a surprisingly limited number of words to refer to the belly.
The word stomach came to English in the late 1300s from Greek through Latin & Old French. It originally held multiple meanings. 1: the gullet, throat or belly, 2: inclination, taste or liking, & 3: dislike or distaste. Because at the time many believed pride to reside in the belly, stomach also operated as a synonym for the word pride.
As of 1867, English speakers could refer to the stomach with the word tummy, which modern dictionaries label as an infantile synonym for stomach. The less formal dictionaries use the descriptor baby-talk.
Gut came to Old English from Proto-Indo-European. Most Germanic languages still have some variation of gut. Closely related to the word gutter, gut initially meant channel, a meaning which was soon applied to biological channels and came to mean entrails or bowels. In the 1300s gut picked up the verb meaning entrail-removal & another noun meaning stomach. It wasn’t until 1918 that the idiom to hate someone’s guts was born.
The no-longer-in-vogue word paunch came to us from Latin through Old French from a word meaning stomach or swelling.
And belly came from a Germanic word meaning belly or pouch. Its Germanic-language sisters have similar meanings including bag, husk, bellows, pod, billow, purse, pod, & wineskin. All these words come from a Proto-Indo-European verb meaning to blow or swell. And the idiom belly up to the bar appeared sometime in the 1930s.
Here’s hoping you successfully stomached all that. Anything to say about it? Please use the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Phrases.org, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & the OED.
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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