Stories We Like: Novels For Language Lovers
early 14c., from Old English arwan, earlier earh "arrow," possibly borrowed from Old Norse ör (genitive örvar), from Proto-Germanic *arkhwo (cf. Gothic arhwanza), from PIE root *arku- "bow and/or arrow," source of Latin arcus (see arc (n.)). The ground sense would be "the thing belonging to the bow," perhaps a superstitious avoidance of the actual name.
A rare word in Old English, where more common words for "arrow" were stræl (cognate with the word still common in Slavic, once prevalent in Germanic, too; meaning related to "flash, streak") and fla, flan, a North Germanic word, perhaps originally with the sense of "splinter." Stræl disappeared by 1200; fla lingered in Scottish until after 1500. Meaning "a mark like an arrow in cartography, etc." is from 1834.
At first made of reeds, and then of wood tipped with iron. Arrows are sometimes figuratively put for lightning (Deut. 32:23, 42; Ps. 7:13; 18:14; 144:6; Zech. 9:14). They were used in war as well as in the chase (Gen. 27:3; 49:23). They were also used in divination (Ezek. 21:21). The word is frequently employed as a symbol of calamity or disease inflicted by God (Job 6:4; 34:6; Ps. 38:2; Deut. 32:23. Comp. Ezek. 5:16), or of some sudden danger (Ps. 91:5), or bitter words (Ps. 64:3), or false testimony (Prov. 25:18).