Some words do a lot of work. Fair is one such word.
One sort of fair appears to have come from a Proto-Indo-European word that meant to make pretty. It moved from there through Germanic languages to land in Old English with three different meanings:
-morally good (when applied to people or policies)
-pleasing to the sight (when applied to people, places, & objects), &
-bright, clear, & not rainy (when applied to the weather).
By 1200, the prejudices of the day contributed to another meaning — light of complexion, eyes, or hair.
About the same time, fair added the meaning according to propriety or justice.
By the 1300s, fair added the meaning equitable, free of bias, or impartial.
By the late 1300s, fair picked up three more meanings: -promising or auspicious,
-of considerable size, &
-(when applied to wind) favorable for a ship’s passage.
Along the way, fair spawned some idioms:
fair play — 1590s
the fair sex — 1660s
fair weather friends — 1736
fair game — 1776
fair ball & fair catch — 1856
fair haired (meaning favorite or darling) — 1909
AND there’s another fair that came through Old French & Vulgar Latin from Latin. This fair means a celebration or trade opportunity & the place where the celebration or trading occurs.
There’s a whole lot of fairing going on.
Any thoughts? Please use the comment section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster, Collins Dictionary, Wordnik, & Etymonline.
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.
To receive weekly reminders of new Wordmonger posts, click on "Contact" & send me your email address.