July 24, 2013

Case File #013.07.24: QUAINT

Quaint became part of the English vocabulary circa 1200, though it was originally spelled cointe and was hardly the winsome word it is today. It came directly from the Old French adjective, which meant “knowledgeable or clever” and was itself derived from the similarly defined Latin word cognitus, but around 1280, the English was Anglicized to queinte (sometimes spelled queynte) and its meaning shifted to “elaborate” and “skillfully made.” Believe it or not, it only took another forty years or so for the word's form to become the now familiar quaint, yet the current sense of “interestingly odd or charmingly old-fashioned” didn't come into use until the late eighteenth century.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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