Welcome to the final installment on words that refer to our belongings. You can find the first three posts here, here, & here.
The word accoutrements (which can sadly also be spelled accouterments) and means clothing, equipment or apparatus, arrived in English in the 1540s from Middle French. It came through Old French from the Vulgar Latin word, accosturare, to sew up. Though accosturare looks as though it may also be the root for costume, it is not, but it did give us the word suture.
The word possession arrived in English in the 1300s through Old French from Latin. Through all three languages possession has meant item one owns, however, in English the meaning demonic possession was added in the 1580s, just in time for the zealotry that led up to the Salem witch trials a century later.
An earlier Wordmonger “stuff” post compelled Julie Harris, to ask, “Can I use the word ‘things’ instead?” Absolutely. The word things came to Modern English from Old English. The singular form, thing, looked like þing & originally meant a meeting, assembly or discussion. Because meetings involved discussions of items, thing picked up the meaning entity, item, being or matter. Though that original meaning of meeting, assembly or discussion has been lost in English, we can still see evidence of it in Iceland, where the nation’s general assembly is called the Althing. And that very 1960s phrase do your thing actually made its way into the language in the 1840s.
The word paraphernalia came to English in the 1650s from Medieval Latin, originally meaning a woman’s property other than her dowry. The Medieval Latin word’s source is Greek, where it held that same meaning and was constructed of the word parts pherein, to carry, and para, beside. The modern meaning, personal belongings or articles used in a particular activity showed up in 1791.
Good readers, please leave any thoughts regarding all these things in the comments section.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: Wordnik, Etymonline, Merriam Webster, the OED.
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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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