June 19, 2013

Case File #013.06.19: CROON

The Middle Dutch verb kronen meant “to mourn or groan loudly,” and believe it or not, it is from this that the English word croon ultimately evolved. When English speakers borrowed the Dutch word circa 1400, they Anglicized it to crownen (sometimes spelling it croynen) and used it to mean “to low like a bull.” At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the word came to mean “to murmur mournfully,” and not long after, the spelling finally changed to the now familiar croon. But it took another three hundred years or so for the word to gain its now primary sense of “to sing or speak in a soft, often sentimental manner,” and the derivative noun crooner, meaning “one who sings sentimental or romantic songs in a soft, low voice,” wasn't coined until about 1930.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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