Fun Etymology Tuesday – Tide

Another Tuesday means a new FunEty!

Today’s word is “tide”, referring to the rise and fall of the sea.

If you know any other Germanic languages, you’ll probably recognise the Old English word “tid”, from which “tide” hails. OE “tid” actually referred to a point in time (and could also refer to a period in time, a season, feast day or canonical hour), and, indeed the Scandinavian cognate “tid” for example still means “time”. From Proto-Germanic *tīdi-, from PIE *di-ti-, meaning meaning “division of time”, a suffixed form of *da-, meaning “to divide”.

The current meaning of the word, which surfaced around the 14th century, is likely from the notion of a fixed time, in this particular case the time of high water. This might be a native evolution or from Middle Low German “getide”. Interestingly, Old English appears to not have had a specific word for “tide”, using instead “flod” and “ebba” to refer to the rise and fall of the sea – a usage that strikes me as very likely cognates to modern-day Swedish “flod och ebb”, meaning much the same thing.

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