Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Steep & stoop

Steep & stoop

It seems reasonable that these words might come from the same root:

steep slope
steep the tea 
stoop down
hang out on the stoop

However, only three of them share a root.

The verb steep (to soak in liquid) made its way into English in the early 1300s. Though nobody is certain of its source, it may have come from a Norse word meaning to pour. 

The noun stoop (raised platform at the front or back of a house or apartment), appeared in English in 1755 from a Dutch word meaning a flight of steps.

The three words that share a source are the verb stoop, the adjective steep, & the noun steeple. They all come from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning to push or knock. A version of this root made its way into northern European languages meaning to bow or bend, & then into Old English as the verb stoop. Another form of this root came to mean high & lofty (possibly due to the idea that a mountain is pushed up from the surrounding soil). This form of the root found itself becoming both the adjective steep & the noun steeple

It nearly causes one to want to stoop to steep one’s tea on one’s stoop, then climb up to enjoy the tea atop a steep steeple, eh?

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


  1. In New England people always left their snowy boots on the back stoop (the kind you hang out on) and I always thought it must have something to do with bending over--maybe to take your boots off. But instead it's related to steeples? We have a funny language, Mr. Monger.

  2. The man climbed the steep steps to the stoop of the steeple then stooped to watch the tea steep. Crazy language indeed.

  3. Hey Christine - thanks for having some fun with these.