Mid-embrace, a friend recently said, "I used to not be a hugger. Now I am. " So, in honor of that friend, here are some thoughts on the word hug.
The verb hug first showed up in written English in 1560 – four years before Shakespeare’s birth – as hugge. Etymologists aren’t 100% certain where it came from, but some possibilities include:
Old Norse – hugga – to comfort (from hugr which interestingly meant courage)
German – hegen – to foster or cherish (from a term meaning to enclose with a hedge)
Proto-Germanic – hugjan – to think or consider
Gothic – hugs (adj) – of the mind, soul, or thought
Hug didn’t venture into its identity as a noun until 1610, when it applied to a hold in the sport of wrestling. By 1650, wrestlers shared it with the rest of the English-speaking world & hug came to mean an affectionate embrace.
Translations of the word hug are also somewhat intriguing. The English word embrace is evident in the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, & Romanian words for hug: abrazo, abraccio, abraço & îmbrăţişare. In French the word is étreinte, in Finnish, hali, & in German, umarmung. In Samoan the word is opoopo. In Swedish & Danish, it’s kram.
Here's your chance to spread around some heartfelt umarmungs, opoopos and krams. Mid-hug, focus on comforting, considering, & cherishing. Afterward, keep that consideration in your mind, soul, & thought.
Any comments about hugs, hug's grandmother words or the distant cousins from other languages? Please comment (the comment link is at the top of the post).
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, etymonline.com, askdefine.com, the OED, & GB Milner’s Samoan Dictionary, published jointly but the governments of Western & American Samoa, 1966.
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.