It’s Tuesday! Time for another Fun Etymology!
Today’s word is cab!
For most of us, perhaps, when someone says cab, we think of this:
But, originally, it actually referred to something more like this:
Known especially for their springy suspensions, these passenger-vehicles, commonly drawn by two or four horses, were known as cabs. This was a colloquial London shortening of cabriolet, which was a type of covered carriage.
The word was borrowed from the French word cabriolet, from around the 18th century, a diminutive of cabriole, meaning “a leap, a caper”. Earlier, around the 16th century, it was known as capriole, from Italian capriola, meaning “a caper, frisk, leap” – which literally translates to “a leap like that of a kid goat”, from capriola, meaning “a kid, a fawn”!
Now, where did the goat come from, you wonder?
Well, the Italian word comes from Latin capreolus, meaning “wild goat, roebuck”. This comes from caper, capri, meaning “he-goat, buck” from PIE *kap-ro, meaning the same thing.
Interestingly, the PIE ancestor is also the source of Irish gabor, Welsh gafr, Old English hæfr and Old Norse hafr, all meaning “he-goat”.
From goat to a yellow car that drives you around, this is the story of cab and this week’s Fun Etymology!