My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!
Ultimately from Proto Indo European gerbh, “to scratch”; also the ancestor of carve, crab, crayfish, crawl, and graph. Interestingly, Proto Indo European had another root, ghrebh, which also meant “to scratch”, and is the ancestor of grub, groove, and grave. It’s hard to believe that ghrebh and gerbh are unrelated, but 8000 years later, there appears to be no evidence either way.
Gerbh became graphein, “to write” in ancient Greek, and from this was derived gramma, “letter”. The Greek phrase grammatike tekhne, the “art of letters”, referred to philology and literature. Latin borrowed this as grammatica, which became grammaire “learning” in Old French, and was grafted into English in the late 1100’s as gramarye.
In Middle English, gramarye referred to “learning in general”, including astrology and magic. In Scots English, the word came to mean especially occult knowledge, and evolved into glamour before being borrowed back into the main trunk of English through the writings of Sir Walter Scott. From this came glamorous in the 1880’s. Think of that when you hear a celebrity described as glamorous, or see a picture of a glam rocker…