Fun Etymology Tuesday – Lord & lady

Eala, folcgestællan!

It’s Tuesday, and, as per long tradition, we have a Fun Etymology ready for you!

This week’s words are of noble stock: “lord” and “lady”.

These two noble titles, ubiquitous in films set in Ye Olde Merrie Englande, have surprisingly lowly origins: they both have to do with bread.

The word “lord” comes from old English “hlaford”, itself a contraction of “hlafweard”, literally “loaf-ward”, or “bread protector”, while the word “lady” comes from “hlæfdige”, which could be rendered as “loaf-dey”, or “bread kneader” (though it must be noted that this last etymology is disputed by the OED. However, nobody seems to have a better one, so there).

So the lady made the bread, while the lord stood there with his sword on the ready should any bread thieves dare tamper with their nutritious wheat derivate.

As an Italian, though, I must say that ladies were apparently not too good at making bread, considering the flaccid, sweetish mess English bread ended up being. No “hlafþeóf” would be interested in that.

Perhaps that’s why lords and ladies ended up moving on from baking to the far more profitable business of oppressing peasants.

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