June 12, 2013

Case File #013.06.12: STAUNCH

The adjective staunch was spelled staunche when it first appeared in the English lexicon in the late fourteenth century, and while it was sometimes used in the senses of “intact” and “secure,” it was most often used to mean “watertight.” This is because it was derived from the Old French word estanche, which meant “waterproof” and was itself derived from the Old French verb estanchier, meaning “to stop the flow of a liquid.” (For the record, estanchier is the direct source of the English verb stanch, which means “to stop the flow or advance of something” and is used by the medical profession in the sense of “to cease or restrict bleeding.”) In the mid-fifteenth century, staunch essentially lost its association with watertightness and came to mean “of strong or substantial construction,” but it wasn't until circa 1620 that the adjective finally took on the additional sense of “steadfast or loyal in attitude or principle.”

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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