Fun Etymology Tuesday – Hour

Ah, Tuesday. Wonderful, amazing Tuesday.

Why is it wonderful? Well, it sure isn’t because of the Scandinavian weather, but because it’s time for another fun Etymology!!

Speaking of time, we’ve been working a bit of a theme here and today is no different! Today’s word is “hour”.

Originally meaning “divine office prescribed for each of the seven canonical hours; the daily service at the canonical hours”, the word comes to English from Old French “ore”, meaning “one-twelfth of a day”, from Latin “hora”, meaning “an hour” or, a bit more poetically “time of year, season”. The Latin word itself comes from Greek hōra, which was used to indicate any limited time within a year, month, or day, and comes from PIE *yor-a-, from the root *yer-, meaning, of course, year.

Now, that’s some trip! But, you might remember that we promised you a treat last week? “Minute”, we said, is very similar in many Germanic languages, yet “hour”, we teased, is not.

And that’s indeed true. In the Scandinavian languages, the word for hour is “ti(m)me”, from Old Norse “timi”, which you could properly guess would simply be “time” in English.

That was the easy one: in German, the word for “hour” is “stunde”. Can you find an English equivalent? Maybe not? Well, there is one: stound! This word comes from Proto-Germanic *stundō, meaning “point in time, hour” from PIE *stā, meaning “to stand”. Aside from English, this word is found in the Scandinavian languages as “stund”, meaning “a short while, a short period of time”.

So, while there are different words for “hour” in the Germanic languages, it is often the case that we find parallel words with a somewhat altered meaning in the other Germanic languages. These words are cognates, meaning simply that they share an origin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they mean the same thing today. Do you know of any interesting cognates that you want to share with us? Please do and let us all learn a bit more, and welcome back next week for more Fun Etymology!

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