Fun Etymology Tuesday – Wacky

Boy, the Tuesdays keep coming! That’s great, because what else would I do with all these fun etymologies?!

Today’s word is wacky!

An adjective meaning crazy or eccentric, originally comes from the adjective whack, meaning something like a heavy blow. Whack, in turn, comes from the noun thwack, which comes from the verb thwack, meaning to beat or strike vigorously.

While I would like to keep talking about Proto-Germanic origins and so on, I though we’d change things up today. You see, all of these previous stages of wacky are likely echoic (or onomatopoeic) words. This means that the sound alone is the basis of the word. Other examples are bang, splash, cuckoo.

But what about wacky? Clearly, it is not an echoic word?

You’re right, it’s not. It can actually be divided into two parts: wack and -y. Here, –y is a suffix with several functions. Here, it is pretty much telling us: “Look, this word has the same qualities as whack“.

So what are those shared qualities? Well, wacky likely comes from the notion of being whacked on the head one too many times. Imagine the sound of whacking someone on the head – there are your shared qualities!

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