Another Tuesday – another Fun Etymology!
Today, we continue with our nature-related words! Today is a tricky one… Let’s look at forest!
As with many things in historical linguistics, the exact etymology of this word is a bit… unclear.
Coming to English around the 13th century from Old French forest (modern-day French forêt), this word probably originates with late Latin (or medieval Latin) forestem silvam, meaning “the outside wood”, a term hailing from the time of Charlemagne – then denoting “the royal forest”.
If this etymology is true, the word stems from Medieval Latin foris, meaning “outside”, perhaps denoting something like “outside of fenced areas”.
However, there is another suggestion.
It might be that the French word ultimately derives from Latin forestis, originally meaning “forest preserve, game preserve” from Latin forum, meaning “court, judgment”. If so, it might have meant something like “land subject to a ban” – as in, don’t shoot a deer here.
And that’s is our unclear etymology for today!