Thursday, February 4, 2016

Whine again

Whine Again

Last week we took a look at six words meaning to complain, but we English-speaking folk are not fenced in by a mere six ways of complaining. Here are a few more. 

From Old Norse we get the word carp, to complain or find fault with. In Old Norse it meant to brag. Nobody’s sure about its source before that. Etymologists believe that as carp made its way into English the Old Norse word shook hands with the Latin word carpere, to slander or revile, & became the English verb carp. All this happened in the 1200s. Though one might think the complaining carp might be related to the fishy carp, there is no relationship. The word for the fish probably came from Gothic through a Germanic language, then through Vulgar Latin & Old French to land in English in the 1300s, just in time to allow our linguistic ancestors to carp about carp.

And then there’s gripe. The to complain meaning of gripe didn’t come to English until 1932, though the verb gripe came to English about 1200. It originally meant to clutch or seize firmly & came from an Old English word meaning to grasp at or attack.

The verb grumble came to English in the 1580s meaning to complain in a low voice.  It may have come from a Middle French word meaning to mutter between the teeth or from a Middle Dutch word meaning to murmur, mutter, or grunt.

In 1885 the verb grouse showed up in English, meaning to complain. It came from British Army slang. It’s not clear where those British soldiers picked it up, but there happens to be an Old French word meaning to murmur, grumble, or complain: groucier.

That Old French word that may have been the source of grouse was definitely the source of another way to complain, grutch. Grutch showed up in the English in the 1200s.

The word snivel, to complain or whine tearfully, appeared in English in the 1600s. Its Old English source, snyflan, meant to run at the nose. Interestingly, the Middle English used the related noun snivelard to refer to one who weeps, cries or whines.

So many ways to complain! Please register your complaints or comments in the comments section.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Etymonline, Wordnik, Merriam-Webster & the OED


  1. We need to bring back the word "snivelard"! There are some political blowhards who weep on cue who really need that label. I love it that one word meant both brag and complain. We do find--again in another political blowhard--the tendency to either brag or whine pretty much every time they speak. A person who, some might say is full of, um, carp. :-)

    1. Dearest Miss Allen - so true that many snivelards appear to be full of, um, carp.

  2. So many ways to complain! And, yes, snivelard...great word. I wonder if we have an equal number of ways to praise.

    1. Hi Christine - I've had that same thought. And thanks for popping by.