August 20, 2014

Case File #014.08.20: NOOSE

Although the English noun noose means “a loop in a rope or cord, specifically one formed by means of a slipknot so that it can be made to shrink and bind tightly around something when one end of the rope or cord is pulled,” the word's family tree is more firmly rooted in the notion of the knot than it is in that of the loop. You see, the noun's oldest ancestor is the Latin noun nodus, which meant “knot” or “node.” The Latin passed into Old Provençal (aka Old Occitan) and, in turn, Old French as nous or nos, and in the early fifteenth century, English speakers borrowed the Old French, Anglicized it to nose, and used it to mean “slipknot.” It took about half the century, however, for the word's meaning to shift to something like “the loop formed by a slipknot in a rope or cord,” and it wasn't until the end of the century, when Middle English started giving way to modern English, that the spelling changed to the contemporary noose and the noun began to take on the more specific denotation of a loop that tightly binds or snares. Around 1600, noose also took on two verb senses, “to capture or secure by or as if by a noose” and “to make a noose of or in,” but here in the twenty-first century, the verbs aren't used as commonly as they once were.

©2014 Michael R. Gates

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