Word Origin & History
1523, from M.Du. wagen, waghen, from P.Gmc. *wagnaz (cf. O.E. wægn, Mod.Eng. wain, O.S., O.H.G. wagan, O.N. vagn, O.Fris. wein, Ger. Wagen), from PIE *woghnos, from *wegh- "to carry, to move" (cf. Skt. vahanam "vessel, ship," Gk. okhos, L. vehiculum, O.C.S. vozu "carriage, chariot," Rus. povozka,
Lith. vazis "a small sledge," O.Ir. fen, Welsh gwain "carriage, cart;" see weigh
). In Du. and Ger., the general word for "a wheel vehicle;" Eng. use is a result of contact through Flemish immigration, Dutch trade, or the Continental wars. It has largely displaced the native cognate, wain
. Spelling preference varied randomly between -g- and -gg- from mid-18c., before Amer.Eng. settled on the etymological wagon, while waggon remained common in Great Britain. Wagon train is attested from 1810. Phrase on the wagon "abstaining from alcohol" is 1904, originally on the water cart.