October 24, 2013

Case File #013.10.24: EERIE

The word eerie descended from the Old English earg, which meant “cowardly” and itself evolved (or so say some etymologists and linguists) from either the Proto-Germanic adjective argaz, meaning “unmanly” or “fainthearted,” or the Proto-Indo-European verb root ergh-, meaning “to tremble or shake.” So it's understandable that when eerie first came into use during the late thirteenth century, it meant “fearful or timid.” The eighteenth-century Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns was the first to use the adjective in its contemporary sense of “strange and mysterious in a way that inspires uneasiness, fear, or dread,” and since it was through his influence that this became the word's primary meaning throughout the English-speaking world, it's more than a little ironic that the Scottish still often use eerie in what is basically its original sense of “frightened or unnerved.”

©2013 Michael R. Gates

No comments:

Post a Comment