Since last week’s post covered words related to caca, why not move onto synonyms for stinky?
Though the word stinky didn’t come to English until 1888, its root word stink came from an Old English word stincan, a verb that meant to emit a smell of any kind. Its cousin, stench was also in the Old English lexicon. Both came from a Proto-Germanic word meaning bad smell. So originally, stench & stink had a similar noun/verb relationship to our modern words drench & drink.
One of the two original meanings of the Old English word foul was rotten, unclean, vile or offensive to the senses. Its second meaning was ugly. This second branch of meaning is the source for foul play, which likely led to the term foul ball.
Malodorous is an English construction that occurred in 1832, combining the Medieval Latin word for having a smell (-odorus) with the French word for bad (mal-).
The modern word rank came from the Old English adjective ranc, which meant overbearing & showy. During Middle English, it evolved to mean large & coarse, then excessive & unpleasant, then foul. Some etymologists suggest this last shift was influenced by the English acquisition of the French word rance, which meant rancid.
In the late 1300s the word fusty arrived in English, meaning stale-smelling. It came from a French wine-related word meaning tasting of the cask, which came from a Latin word meaning sticks of wood.
And frowsty showed up in 1865, meaning having an unpleasant smell. It may have come from a French word meaning ruinous. Though hard-working etymologists haven’t nailed down the connection, they have identified a connection to the word frowsy, which means both musty/stale & slovenly/uncared for.
Nothing like a few stinky words, eh? Please consider commenting on which of these words’ histories most surprised you.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the Merriam Webster, OED, Wordnik, Oxford Dictionary, & 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.
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