I’m on a roll with words referring to unessential belongings. So here’s the second post in the series.
My great grandmother referred to knick-knacks as gewgaws. Though in my youth I imagined she had created this word, gewgaw came to English in the early 1200s, centuries before my great grandmother existed. Though etymologists aren’t sure of its source, some have suggested gewgaw is an intentionally mispronounced version of the Old French word gogue, which meant rejoicing, prank, or mockery. Others have suggested it came from the French word for play, jouer. These days it means a gaudy but valueless trinket.
Another word meaning the same thing is bauble, which came to English in the 1300s from the French word baubel, a child’s trinket or toy. Again, no source has been verified, but etymologists have suggested it may be a reduplication of the French or Latin word for pretty, belle or bel.
The word trinket also comes from no known source. It showed up in English in the 1530s & may have come from the word trick.
An American English word meaning unnamed thing, gadget or device is dingus, but this one has a clear source. It came to English in 1876 from the Dutch word for thing, dinges.
Also appearing in American English in 1905 & 1914 respectively, we have doodad & doohickey. Etymologists label one a “made up word” & the other an “arbitrary formation”, which suggests that nobody knows a darn thing about the source of either word. Both doodad & doohickey mean an unnamed thing, gadget or device.
Good readers, please leave anything you have to say about all these trinket-esque words in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, the OED.
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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