Even the most common of words can have fascinating etymologies. It's truly a humbling experience to come to understand a word we take for granted in our everyday vocabulary, to realize the magnitude of its journey to its place in the dictionary. I had this realization once again while perusing the dictionary just a few minutes ago; I had gotten distracted while doing work and had somehow ended up on the entry of the word "cloak." A simple word indeed, but a glance at its etymology brought to mind the paths of several everyday words that I have traced in my studies.
Take "cloak" itself, for example. What is fascinating about the origin of the word is that it shares an etymology with "clock." The letters and sounds could be likened to one another, but the meanings don't seem to have anything in common. In truth, both words can be traced back to an Old North French word, cloque, meaning "bell." A cloak is named as such due to the bell-like shape such a coat can take. A clock is named after a bell because, as many of us know all too well, they are those awful things that ring some sort of physical or digital alarm bell in the morning to wake you up, even when all you want to do is sleep. Although it perhaps seems strange that a cloak and a clock were originally the same thing, it goes to show how beautifully intertwined and interrelated our language is, even when it doesn't appear so.
Another personal favorite etymology is that of the word "planet." It originates from the Greek word planasthai meaning "to wander." It is thought that since ancient astronomers did not necessarily know that planets move in specific patterns, they believed that the planets they were seeing were "wandering" through the sky at random. Of course, our understanding of planets has advanced since then, but this is an example of how the complexities of human understanding--even incorrect human understanding--sculpt our words and language over time.
This, of course, is a small sampling of the fascinating etymologies that can be found in words we use every day. What are some of your favorite everyday etymologies?