Fun Etymology Tuesday – Palace

Time for some FunEty!

Today’s word is “palace”. From Old French “palais”, meaning a palace or court, this word entered the English language around the early 13th century and used to refer to the official residence of an emperor, king, archbishop, and so on. Eventually, around the late 14th century, it had undergone semantic broadening and had come to mean something like a splendid dwelling place.

The Old French word, though, hails from Medieval Latin “palacium”, also meaning simply a palace, a word which is also the ancestor of Spanish “palacio” and Italian “palazzo”. However, the Latin word also comes from somewhere, in this case from the Latin word “palatium”, also “Mons Palatinus”, meaning the Palatine hill!

Why this specific hill, you wonder? Well, you see, the Palatine Hill was one of the seven hills of Ancient Rome, upon which we, if we were to travel back in time, would find the residence of one Augustus Caesar! A bit later in time, we might instead find the splendid residence of emperor Nero so this hill has certainly had some splendid palaces in its time!

And it doesn’t even end there! The name of the Palatine Hill may be traced back to the word “palus”, meaning something like stake but likely on the notion of enclosure. Another guess, though, is that it derives from Etruscan and is connected with the name Pales, an italic goddess of shepherds and cattle.

That’s it for today! See you next week!

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