Thursday, January 19, 2012



In celebration of National Hugging Day (who knew?), January 21, here are some thoughts on the word hug.

The verb hug first showed up in written English in 1560 – four years before Shakespeare’s birth – as hugge. Etymologists aren’t 100% certain where it came from, but some possibilities include:

Old Norsehugga – to comfort (from hugr which interestingly meant courage)
Germanhegento foster or cherish (from a term meaning to enclose with a hedge)
Proto-Germanichugjanto think or consider
Gothichugs (adj) – of the mind, soul, or thought

Hug didn’t venture into its identity as a noun until 1610, when it applied to a hold in the sport of wrestling. By 1650, wrestlers shared it with the rest of the English-speaking world & hug came to mean an affectionate embrace.

Translations of the word hug are also somewhat intriguing. The English word embrace is evident in the Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, & Romanian words for hug: abrazo, abraccio, abraço &
îmbrăţişare. In French the word is étreinte, in Finnish, hali, & in German, umarmung. In Samoan the word is opoopo. In Swedish & Danish, it’s kram

Here’s a hope that National Hugging Day gets appropriately celebrated, even by those who don’t even know it exists (or those who are instead celebrating National Squirrel Day, which is another post entirely). Dear followers, spread around some heartfelt umarmungs, opoopos and krams. Mid-hug, focus on comforting, considering, & cherishing. Afterward, keep that consideration in your mind, soul, & thought.

Any comments about hugs, their grandmother words or their distant cousins from other languages? Please leave them in the comment section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources,,, the OED, & GB Milner’s Samoan Dictionary, published jointly but the governments of Western & American Samoa, 1966.


  1. Since I believe in hugs, I really like what you turned up in your research, Charlie.

    I'm going to post on my blog about National Hug Day and send folks your way.

  2. I love the word Opoopo! All those "o's"--they look like hugs.

    I think what we really need is "hug a squirrel day."

  3. Ahoy Jean Ann & Anne,
    Thanks heaps, Jean Ann for sending folks my way. Anne, as to squirrel-hugging, I believe it's still illegal in most states, yet I'm with you.