Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
Walking in New York is a lot harder than I remembered. How is it that I live in a city with streets that are hundreds of years old but I don’t ever fear falling through one into the realm of the C.H.U.D.? I’ll make allowances for construction or urban repairs, but most of the sidewalks in New York look like something out of a post-earthquake slideshow. It’s hard to enjoy the city and take in all the hustle and the bustle when I’m constantly stubbing my feet.
Still, cursing the existence of all these damn holes led me to a Word Mystery! Take a tumble into a cannibal-free zone with me!
EN → hole — a hollow place in a solid body or surface. ORIGIN Dutch hol [cave] and German hohl [hollow] from an Indo-European root meaning “cover, conceal.”
ES → agujero — Abertura más o menos redondeada en alguna cosa. [More or less round opening in a thing.] ORIGIN aguja [needle] from Latin acucŭla [dimunuitive needle].
FR → trou — Enfoncement, dépression, cavité, creux dans une surface. [Recess, depression, cavity, hollow in a surface.] ORIGIN Low Latin traugum [hole].
Spanish note: I’d never connected agujero and aguja before and, even though I read it in a dictionary, I’m still not sure I would. Is the most characteristic part of a needle the eye? I’d say it’s the pointy end. Spanish scores an F today for being dumb.
French note: I like that the French definition allows for just about any degree of concavity to qualify, though for me “hole” has something to do with the ratio of the thickness of the thing and how deeply or completely it’s transected said thing.
Today’s Winner: English just ’cause I like caves.