I’ve always assumed that — like most homonyms — the verb to bear & the noun bear came from different sources & managed to land in English with the same spellings but different meanings.
Apparently not. They each come from a Proto-Indo-European word which had two different meanings.
So, those who study steaming heaps of Indo-European languages in order to manufacture a proposed earlier language (Proto-Indo-European), came to the conclusion that way back in some imagined time & place, something shiny & brown was called *bher-, AND to carry or give birth was to *bher-.
Why not? Every language includes words that look & sound the same but mean different things. Why not this imagined language of the distant past?
The meaning shiny & brown gave us these modern words:
And look what the meaning to carry or give birth bore:
through Germanic languages
through Old English (look for barr)
through Greek & earlier Latin (look for for, phor, fer, or phag)
through later Latin for the most part (look for pher or fer)
I can hardly bear it.
Comments? You know what to do.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: the OED, Etymonline, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, & Wordnik.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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