Word Origin & History
O.E. arwan, earlier earh "arrow," possibly borrowed from O.N. ör (gen. örvar), from P.Gmc. *arkhwo (cf. Goth. arhwanza), from PIE base *arku- "bow and/or arrow," source of Latin arcus (see arc
). The ground sense would be "the thing belonging to the bow," perhaps a
superstitious avoidance of the actual name. A rare word in O.E., where more common words for "arrow" were stræl (cognate with the word still common in Slavic, once prevalent in Gmc., too; meaning related to "flash, streak") and fla, flan, a N.Gmc. word, perhaps with the sense of "splinter." Stræl disappeared by 1200; fla lingered in Scottish until after 1500. Arrowhead is from late 15c.; ancient ones dug up also were called elf-arrows (17c.). Arrowroot (1690s) so called because it was used to absorb toxins from poison-dart wounds.