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, July 20, 2017

Dog breeds

Dog breeds

Since last week we took a look at dog idioms, this week we’ll consider the etymologies of some selected dog breeds.

It would be reasonable to assume the word poodle comes from French, but it actually came to English in 1808 from the German word pudelhund, which meant water dog. At the time, poodles swam into bodies of water to retrieve ducks and such. And yes, poodle is directly related to the word puddle.

And schnauzer, which sounds as though it came from German, actually did. In 1923 schnauzer came to English to label a particular sort of terrier. Schnauzer meant growler, & came from the word schnauze, which meant snout. And yes, snout, snoot, & schnoz all came from this same source.

Chow-chow comes, as one would expect, from Chinese. Though it’s uncertain what the root is, some etymologists argue it’s a reduplication of the Chinese word cha, which means mixed. As every breed is actually a mixture of earlier breeds, this proposed explanation makes good sense.

Back in 1858 an undetermined native language of North America gave us chihuahua, which meant dry place. One of the many dry places in North America earned this moniker, as did the small dogs plentiful in the region.

Akita came from a Japanese word meaning field of ripe rice. This description applied to a region of northern Japan. Eventually, the energetic dog of the area also took on the name.

Corgi entered English in 1926 from two Welsh word parts: cor- meaning dwarf, &  -ci, meaning dog

The word mastiff came to English in the 1300s through French from a Latin word meaning gentle & tame. Though many folks might look at a modern mastiff & not immediately think gentle & tame, guard dogs living in people’s homes have to be well-mannered, & the mastiff was bred to be a guard dog. Many etymologists think the word mastiff might have been additionally influenced by the Old French word mestif, which meant mongrel.

Any thoughts on all these dog breeds, or all the dogged work etymologists have done to figure all this out? Please use the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources Etymonline, The Free Dictionary, Collins Dictionary, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & the OED.


  1. This is a wealth of new information for me, Mr. Monger! I'm going to love thinking of poodles as puddles and schnauzers as snoots! :-)

    1. Anne - thanks for coming by. Perhaps we should rename all these designer dogs people are breeding -- the pudnauzer, the snoodle!