August 6, 2013

Case File #013.08.06: CRAVEN

Craven entered the English vocabulary in the early thirteenth century, but its original form was cravant and it was used to mean “defeated.” Most etymologists believe it was ultimately derived from the Old French verb cravanter, meaning “to crush or overwhelm,” which was itself derived from the Latin verb crepare, meaning “to crack" or “to burst.” The English adjective's now familiar sense of “cowardly” was first used around 1400 and soon became the word's sole meaning, but the current form craven didn't appear until sometime during the seventeenth century. And for the record, the popular horror-film director who is ironically named Craven entered the world on August 2, 1939, though his filmmaking career didn't begin until the early 1970s.

©2013 Michael R. Gates

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