WORDS DERIVED FROM THE NAMES OF PLACES.
Academy, from Academia, the house of Acadēmus, a friend of the great Greek philosopher Plato, who was allowed to teach his followers there. Plato taught either in Academus’s garden, or in his own house.
Artesian (well), from Artois, the name of an old province in the north-west of France, the inhabitants of which were accustomed to pierce the earth for water.
from Bayonne, in the south of France, on the Bay of Biscay.
Bedlam, the name for a lunatic asylum—a corruption of the word Bethlehem (Hospital).
Cambric, the name of the finest kind of linen; from Cambray, a town in French Flanders, in the north-west of France.
Canter, an easy and slow gallop; from the pace assumed by the Canterbury Pilgrims, when riding along the green lanes of England to the shrine of Thomas à Becket.
Carronade, a short cannon; from Carron, in Stirlingshire, Scotland, where it was first made.
Cherry; from Cerasus, a town in Pontus, Asia Minor, where it was much grown.
Copper and Cypress; from the island of Cyprus, in the Mediterranean.
Currants, small dried grapes from Corinth, in Greece, where they are still grown in large quantities. They are shipped at the port of Patras.
Damson, a contraction of damascene; from Damascus = the Damascus plum. (Hence also damask.)
Dollar, a coin—the chief coin used in America; from German Thaler (= Daler, or something made in a dale or valley). The first coins of this sort were made in St Joachimsthal in Bohemia, and were called Joachim’s thaler.
Elysian (used with fields or bliss), from Elysium, the place to which the souls of brave Greeks went after death.
Ermine, the fur worn on judges’ robes; from Armenia, because this fur is “the spoil of the Armenian rat.”
Florin, a two-shilling piece; from Florence. Professor Skeat says: “Florins were coined by Edward III. in 1337, and named after the coins of Florence.”
Gasconading, boasting; from Gascony, a southern province of France, the inhabitants of which were much given to boasting. One Gascon, on being shown the Tuileries—the palace of the Kings of France—remarked that it reminded him to some extent of his father’s stables, which, however, were somewhat larger.
Gipsy, a corrupt form of the word Egyptian. The Gipsies were supposed to come from Egypt. (The French call them Bohemians.)
Guinea, a coin value 21s. now quite out of use, except as a name—made of gold brought from the Guinea Coast, in the west of Africa.
Hock, the generic term for all kinds of Rhine-wine, but properly only the name of that which comes from Hocheim, a celebrated vineyard.
Indigo, a blue dye, obtained from the leaves of certain plants; from the Latin adjective Indicus = belonging to India.
Laconic, short, pithy, and full of sense; from Laconia, a country in the south of Greece, the capital of which was Sparta or Lacedæmon. The Laconians, and especially the Spartans, were little given to talking, unlike their lively rivals, the Athenians.
Lilliputian, very small; from Lilliput, the name of the imaginary country of extremely small men and women, visited by Captain Lemuel Gulliver, the hero of Swift’s tale called ‘Gulliver’s Travels.’
Lumber, useless things; from Lombard, the Lombards being famous for money-lending. The earliest kind of banking was pawnbroking; and pawnbrokers placed their pledges in the “Lombard-room,” which, as it gradually came to contain all kinds of rubbish, came also to mean and to be called “lumber-room.” In America, timber is called lumber.
Meander (to), to “wind about and in and out;” from the Mæander, a very winding river in the plain of Troy, in Phrygia, in the north-west of Asia Minor.
Magnesia and Magnet, from Magnesia, a town of Thessaly, in the north of Greece.
Milliner, originally a dealer in wares from Milan, a large city in the north of Italy, in the plain of the Po.
Muslin, from Mosul, a town in Asiatic Turkey, on the Tigris.
Palace, from the Latin palatium, a building on Mons Palatīnus, one of the seven hills of Rome. This building became the residence of Augustus and other Roman emperors; and hence palace came to be the generic term for the house of a king or ruling prince. Palatinus, itself comes from Pales, a Roman goddess of flocks, and is connected with the Lat. pater, a father or feeder.
Peach, from Lat. Persicum (malum), the Persian apple, from Persia. The r has been gradually absorbed.
Pheasant, from the Phasis, a river of Colchis in Asia Minor, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, from which these birds were first brought.
Port, a wine from Oporto, in Portugal. (Compare Sherry from Xeres, in the south of Spain.)
Rhubarb, from the Rha barbarum, the wild Rha plant. Rha is an old name for the Volga, from the banks of which this plant was imported.
Solecism, a blunder in the use of words; from Soli, a town in Cilicia, in Asia Minor, the inhabitants of which used a mixed dialect.
Spaniel, a sporting-dog remarkable for its sense; from Spain. The best kinds are said to come from Hispaniola, an island in the West Indies, now called Hayti.
Stoic, from Stoa Poikĭlé, the Painted Porch, a porch in Athens, where Zeno, the founder of the Stoic School, taught his disciples.
Utopian, impossible to realise; from Utopia (= Nowhere), the title of a story written by Sir Thomas More, in which he described, under the guise of an imaginary island, the probable state of England, if her laws and customs were reformed.