Great sounding words, eh? I’ve no idea what it is about that short U sound in snuggle, cuddle, & hug that somehow speaks of coziness & comfort, but it does. Where did we get these comfy words, anyway?
Back in the 1560s when hug made its way into English it was spelled hugge. As it does today, it meant embrace. Though we’re not sure what its original source was, here are the two primary contenders:
-the German word hegen, to foster or cherish
-the Old Norse word hugga, to comfort.
Snuggle appeared in English in the 1680s. It came from the word snug. Like hug, snug has a questionable background. Some contenders for snug’s roots include:
-the Old Norse word snoggr, short-haired
-the Old Danish word, snog, neat & tidy
-the Old Swedish word, snygg, trim & dapper
Which brings us to the British slang word snog -- to cuddle or kiss, which, of course, grew out of the word snuggle.
When snug appeared on the scene in the 1590s, it was used primarily to refer to a ship, & meant trim or compact. In time, snug added the meanings in a state of ease or comfort, & fit closely. It seems snuggle was born of these two meanings.
Cuddle is another word of questionable origin. The Oxford English Dictionary refers to cuddle as “a dialectical or nursery word” & some etymologists suggest it may have come from a now-defunct English word meaning embrace. That word was cull (which is the root of the word collar). Meaning to lie close or snug in a warm embrace, cuddle appeared first in English in the 1520s.
May November find you engaged in just the right quantity & quality of snuggles, cuddles & hugs.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymonline.com, Merriam-Webster.com, Wordnik, Collins Dictionary, & the OED.
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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