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, January 17, 2019

The wonder of the snout

The wonder of the snout

The word snout doesn’t strike me as a likely parent of many words. Wrong again.

Snout showed up from early Germanic sources in English in the early 1200s, meaning trunk or projecting nose of an animal.

The Scottish version of snout is snoot. It made its way back to English in 1861, meaning nose.

Snore & snort appeared in the 1300s & 1400s respectively. Etymologists cite these words as coming from snout, but also as imitative words of the sounds they represent.

In the 1300s snout gave us the verb snack, meaning to bite or snap. By the 1400s snack also became a noun meaning a snatch or snap. By the 1680s, the meaning a share or portion grew from the original noun meaning, & by 1757 snack began to mean a bit of food to be eaten hastily.

In Old English, the word snafl was born of snout. It meant nasal mucus. In time, snafl became snyflan, which gave us both sniffle and snivel.

Another snout-born Old English word referring to nasal mucus was gesnot, which by the late 1300s, morphed into our modern word snot.

In German, the mother-word for snout gave birth to a word for snarl, which got applied to a breed of dog, & made its way into English in 1923 as the word schnauzer.

All from snout — who knew?

Please leave any snout-oriented thoughts in the comments section.




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

8 comments:

  1. Speaking as someone whose snout is so ensnotiated with gersnot that I feel like snarling, I'm fascinated. Who knew snot was such a venerable word? *sniffle*

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    1. Dearest Miss Allen -- Always grand to hear from you, even when you are ensnotified. Here's hoping you will soon be breathing clearly through your snoot/snout, will be free of snot & schnauzers, & once again enjoying snacks,

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  2. Does "snood", the combination hood and collar, have anything to do with snout/snoot? I was also surprised to read that snot had been in use for its current meaning since the 1300's. I've always thought of it as fairly modern slang.

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    1. Hi Luanna -- I, too, was surprised at how long the word "snot" has been around. And our friends at Etymonline say "snood" comes from a Germanic word meaning string or cord (https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=snood). Thanks for coming by.

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  3. From someone with a sizable Snout, I appreciate this article!

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    1. Hey Ron -- In matters of inhalation, size matters. Thanks for coming by.

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  4. Ah...the places you take us! Even to snotty noses! This is fascinating and funny and timely for several folks I know.

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    1. Hi Christine -- some would say "snot" is timeless!

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