Pop quiz: 10 word sources

Have you ever noticed that the longer you look at any word the stranger it begins to seem? The other day a squirrel ran in front of my car, and I thought “Squirrel is an odd English word — I wonder if it comes from the French.” That guess (a guess, because I couldn’t remember the French ├ęcureuil) turned out to be right (ultimately the word has a Greek origin, skiouros), but that was just luck. I wondered how people would do at identifying the origins of some of the odder words in English, and so I created this quiz. Select the best answer for the origin of each of the 10 words.


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  1. The only one that I really got wrong was the origin of the word “Candy.” I guess French which was right as far as it went but the origins go back much further (I didn’t save the link)
    The English word candy was adapted from French candi in the Old French phrase sucre candi. It was zucchero candi in Italian, azucar cande in Spanish, and ass├╣car candi in Portugese. All of these words derived from Arabic sukkar qandi ‘candied sugar’, meaning sugar that has been cooked and forms a ball when dropped into cold water. Arabic got the word from Persian qand, which came from a Sanskrit root khand ‘to break’. The ultimate origin was probably the Tamil (hence, Dravidian) word kantu ‘ball of candied sugar’, and that is related to a word meaning ‘ball’ or ‘lump’. So there you are.

  2. Good work, Nancy.