Word Traveler: Loving words

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

Speaking of loving words, how about delving into the world of romantic words as we come upon Valentine's Day?

The word allure originally had nothing to do with attracting humans but was a falconry term from French meaning "a lure." The first sense was "tempt," coming from Old French aleurier. Now allure can refer to the attraction exerted by just about anything on anyone: Circus life allured him with its action and excitement. / The allure of the mountains made her want to move to Vermont.

Bride is from the Germanic bryd "bride." The root sense of the noun is uncertain as this is one of our oldest words - and may be "to cook, brew; make broth" as these were the duties of a daughter-in-law in primitive times. In Old English, bride meant a "woman about to be married or just married." Other unrelated senses of bride are "a thread connecting the pattern in lace; a bar" and "a bonnet string." Bridegroom comes from Old English brydguma "bride's man." Over the years, this got shortened to groom.

Conjugal relates to marriage and is based on the Latin word conjugare "to join together in marriage," which in turn came from jugare "to yoke" - and sometimes being married feels like being yoked! The Indo-European root of this Latin word also gave us the words yoke and yoga ("union with the universal spirit") as well as join and junction. We most often heard the word used in reference to a spouse visiting a prison or jail and their conjugal visits or the legal sense of conjugal rights which is the statute saying that each partner in a marriage has rights, including the right to having sexual relations with each other.

Someone who dotes on you may bring you a cup of coffee or run out to buy you a pint of ice cream. A mother may dote on her only child. The word means "be extremely fond of" and "love and care for attentively," but once meant "act or talk foolishly." Though its origin is uncertain, it is related to Dutch doten "be silly." A dotard is a silly or foolish person; dotage describes the period of senility.

Elope started out meaning something quite different; it was the act of a married woman running away from her husband with her lover or paramour. It was illegal, obviously! The word is from Anglo-Norman French aloper, possibly related to leap. The word underwent a change of meaning and now applies to two people who run away to secretly get married - though it can still be used in the sense of "run away, abscond; escape."

The verb flirt originally meant "to snub" and also "to give someone a flick of the finger or sharp tap" while the earliest noun senses were "joke, gibe" and "flighty girl." The latter sense evolved to apply to birds and butterflies which darted around and then into the dominant current meaning of amorous behavior and playful romantic overtures: Men in mid-life crisis like to flirt with pretty girls. Another intense attachment of short duration is puppy love - and before we had puppy love, we had calf love. Neither really has to do with the animals themselves but with a type of immature affection that is destined to fade. The term unrequited comes to mind here, for a one-way feeling of affection. To requite means "to repay, return in kind" - so unrequited love is, etymologically, "love that has been given and not repaid."

Romance is from Old French meaning "the vernacular tongue" or "a work composed in the vernacular tongue," which we recognize as being applied to the Romance languages - but this is also the origin of the lowercase spelling of romance. The word first related to verse on the theme of chivalry and the characteristics described in such a narrative were romantic. The context of "appealing to the feelings" dates only to the early 18th century. Then comes matrimony, from Latin matrimonium "state of being married," from mater "mother" and monium (state, condition). Honeymoon implied that everything was sweet after the wedding but, like a full moon, wanes with time; it later came to mean the first month after the wedding. Tryst comes from Scottish as a variant of an old word trist "an appointed place or station in hunting" and evolved to a "mutual appointment," but now refers to a "secret meeting of lovers."

The term infatuation is from Latin infatuare "make foolish" and it is related to the word fatuous "foolish, stupid, idiotic." Jealousy derives from Greek zelos "jealousy; fervor, enthusiasm" and jealous once meant "devoted, eager." From its Germanic roots, lust first meant "appetite" or "pleasure" but now it means "sexual desire" and has a negative connotation since it is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Nostalgia comes from Greek nostos "homeward journey, return home" and algos "pain" - with the word nostos originally referring to the journey of Odysseus and the heroes from Troy. And if you have a yen, well, you will be surprised about the history of the word. It is from in-yan, the Chinese expression for "craving for opium" and yen first meant "craving of an addict for a drug". This became yan and, eventually, yen for a "powerful craving."

The word kiss is a very old word and it popped into Old English by 750, possibly just being an echoic word - one which arose in imitation of its sound. Ogle "to cast amorous glances," comes from Dutch oog "eye." Seduce first meant "to persuade someone to abandon their duty; to lead astray" (from Latin se- "apart, away" and ducere "to lead") and took the sexual sense in the 16th century. (Seductress appeared in the early 19th century from the obsolete seductor "male seducer.") Woo "to court," is a word that may have arisen as the imitation of the sounds associated with the soft murmuring of lovers. We hope we have wooed you to learn more about words with this collection of romantic vocabulary.

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