It’s Tuesday, which means a new Fun Etymology!
Today’s word is baboon!
A primate classified as a type of Old World Ape – which is an interesting English term for Cercopithecidae, a family of primates with 24 genera and 138 species – this word came to English around 1400 as babewyn (or something similar – we all know how unpredictable Middle English spelling is).
Borrowed from French (either Anglo-Norman French or Middle French or why not both?), this word remains in modern French as babouin from Old French baboin, this word actually meant something like “foolish or stupid person” around the early 13th century. It could also refer to a grotesque figure or monster in architecture – that is, a gargoyle.
Around the mid-13th century (in French that is), it came to also mean what we would identify as a baboon today. And then, like many other French words, it made its way over to the English vocabulary.