Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
Tools are among my favorite things. I think this is because tools have a specific, defined, useful and practical purpose. Tools are either good, or they’re not. They work as advertised, or they don’t. Sure, you can get fancy tools, but just ’cause they’re expensive doesn’t mean they’ll work any better. You’ve gotta respect tools for being that straightforward.
You’ve also gotta respect ’em ’cause they make you learn a new word for them in every language, the sly devils.
EN → tool — a device or implement, esp. one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function. ORIGIN Old English tōl, from a Germanic base meaning “prepare”.
ES → herramienta — Instrumento, por lo común de hierro o acero, con que trabajan los artesanos. [Instrument, typically iron or steel, with which artisans/craftsmen work.] ORIGIN Latin ferramenta [iron trader].
FR → outil — Objet fabriqué, utilisé manuellement ou sur une machine pour réaliser une opération déterminée. [Fabricated object used manually or by a machine to perform a given task.] ORIGIN Latin ŭsitīlium [necessary objet, furniture, utensil] derived from ūti [make use of, be used].
As usual, Spanish disappoints, this time by coming from a fairly straightforward Latin word. French surprises with the information that the Romans classed all practical items used on a regular basis together. I like this idea, as well as its further root, since that also speaks to practicality (one of the tenets of my religion).
But today’s winner is English because “tool” does not come from Latin and because when Germans prepare for stuff, they mean business, which is another of the foundational principles of my way of living.