Thursday, August 1, 2019



There are heaps of lovely English words that somehow relate to greed. Here’s a sampling.

Covet came to English in the 1200s through Old French from Latin, meaning to desire inordinately without regard for the rights of others.

Crave most likely originated in Germanic languages, & appeared in English during Old English times. It originally meant to ask, implore, or demand by right, but by 1400 it mostly meant to eagerly desire.

Grasp showed up in English in the 1400s, & meant to reach, grope, or feel around. It came through Old English & Proto-Germanic from Proto-Indo European.

Greed came to English from an old Germanic word that meant greedy.

Guzzle appeared in English in the 1570s, meaning to swallow liquid greedily. It appears to have come from a French word meaning jaws, throat or gullet.

Peculate came to English in 1749 from a Latin word meaning to embezzle. It is related to peculiar & pecuniary.

Pillage showed up in English in the late 1300s through Old French from Latin. The original Latin term meant to skin or strip of hair.

Purloin came through Anglo-French from Latin in the 1400s & originally meant to misappropriate. It took a century for the less euphemistic meaning to steal to gain favor.

Snaffle likely came from Dutch, arriving in English in the 1530s. A snaffle was originally a bit (the sort one puts in a horse’s mouth), but now snaffle also means to steal. It appears this transformation may be related to the saying “to take the bit in one’s mouth.”

Steal originally meant to clandestinely commit theft. Steal came through Germanic languages from Proto-Indo-European. 

Swindle came to English through German in 1774, originally meaning a giddy person or cheat.

I don’t think of greed as a good thing at all, but I’m quite fond of some of these words. Which ones appeal most to you?