The name ‘Albion’ did not originally refer to the white cliffs of Dover.

The name Albion did not originally refer to the white cliffs of Dover. (photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Fanny)   The name Albion first appeared in English in the very first sentence of the first Book of the 9th-century translation of Historia ecclesiastica gentis anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History of the English People) originally written by the English monk, theologian and historian St. Bede (circa 673-735):   […]

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meanings and origin of the word ‘halcyon’

  kingfisher – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/JJ Harrison     The Latin noun halcyon, more properly alcyon, was derived from Greek ἀλκυών (= alkuon), incorrectly spelt ἁλκυών (= halkuon), meaning kingfisher. The ancients fabled that the halcyon bred about the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea, and that it charmed […]

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origin of ‘reseda’: Natural History, by Pliny the Elder

  Reseda lutea L. photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Udo Schmidt     MEANING   any plant of the European genus Reseda, including mignonette and dyer’s rocket, which has small spikes of greenish, yellowish or whitish flowers   ORIGIN   Through translations of Naturalis Historia (Natural History – 77), a vast encyclopaedia of the natural and human worlds […]

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etymological twins: ‘pastiche’ – ‘pastis’

  pasticcio di carne – photograph: www.cucinafilm.it     The noun pastis designates an aniseed-flavoured aperitif, while pastiche, or pasticcio, denotes a work of art that imitates the style of another artist or period and a work of art that mixes styles, materials, etc. Unlikely as it may seem, these words are doublets, or etymological twins: […]

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a linguistic and historical study of ‘foie gras’

  duck being force-fed corn in order to fatten its liver for foie gras production photograph: GAIA – Voice of the Voiceless     The French term foie gras, from foie, liver, and gras, fat, fatty, denotes the liver of a specially fattened goose or duck prepared as food. Short for pâté de foie gras, […]

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etymological twins: ‘lobster’ – ‘locust’

      The English nouns lobster and locust are doublets. Doublets (or etymological twins) are words in one given language that go back to the same etymological source but differ in form and meaning—cf. also turban – tulip, clock – cloak, pastiche – pastis and fawn – fetus.   The word lobster is from Old English […]

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