Fun Etymology Tuesday – Morning

Running a bit late today, ladies and gents! We’re blaming the fact that our little writing-mouse has managed to catch a cold and was, to be quite honest, napping.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, isn’t it? You know what that means, it’s time for another Fun Etymology! Today’s word is “morning”!

“Morning” actually consists of two elements. Can you think of what they might be?

Well, one of them is the suffix -ing. So the other must be simple “morn”. You might not recognise that as an actual word nowadays but it used to be! Or a contraction of one anyway: the Middle English word “morwen” from the Old English, Mercian dialect to be specific, dative case of “margen” (dative “morgne”), meaning morning, forenoon or sunrise.

This Old English word comes from Proto-Germanic *murgana, meaning simply “morning”, from PIE *merk-, possibly from the root *mer-, meaning, interestingly enough, “to blink” or “twinkle”.

The Proto-Germanic form, it turns out, got around quite a bit and we thus find Old Saxon “morgan”, Old Frisian “morgen”, Dutch “morgen”, German “morgen”, Swedish “morgon”, and so on. Remember what forms that share an origin are called? Cognates, right? Then you might be interested to know that, looking at the PIE form, we may find yet another cognate to English “morning”: the Lithuanian word mirgėti, meaning “to blink”! Didn’t expect that? Well, like we’ve said before, words may change their meaning significantly and words that appear unrelated may sometimes show us that they have a distant relative or two.

Welcome back next week!

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