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etymology of the word "dog"

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Spud McLaren
729800.  Sun Jul 25, 2010 5:43 am Reply with quote

Oh, sorry, Alces - hadn't realised you were new here. Welcome!

737392.  Sat Aug 28, 2010 3:50 pm Reply with quote

Oh, thanks. I don't think you'll be seeing me around much though.

1071056.  Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:54 am Reply with quote

Well here's a theory I haven't seen mentioned. The Cornish word for a terrier was "Dorg". This is because the Cornish word for earth or ground was "Dor".

"Terrier" and "Dorg" therefore mean the same thing - a dog that goes to ground in pursuit of prey.

Could be a coincidence - but then again maybe people often overlook the possibility of old British origins of English words.

1071075.  Sat Apr 26, 2014 11:31 am Reply with quote

Oh that's an interesting one - don't think I've heard that before. Welcome to the forums Ozzie :-)

1071181.  Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:47 pm Reply with quote

Thanks Jenny!

Just to expand slightly - the Welsh is a variant of the Cornish. The Welsh word for terrier is "daeargi", and Welsh for earth is "daear".

This is not as similar to the word "dog" as the Cornish is. But the Welsh and the Cornish are obvious variations of one another.

Spud McLaren
1071193.  Sun Apr 27, 2014 3:40 am Reply with quote

So (just a thought) do we know where* the earliest source of dog in English came from? If it's from a westerly spot, that would lend weight to Ozzie's hypothesis.

* geographically, I mean

1071418.  Sun Apr 27, 2014 11:17 pm Reply with quote

Well, I'm no expert! -

I noticed it when looking at an on-line Cornish - English dictionary. It stood out because I was aware that there is said to be a bit of a mystery about the word "dog" in English. I then checked the Welsh.

However the on-line Middle English Dictionary ( mentions a couple of place names - doggene-berwe (now Dogbury) and Doggen-ford. Apparently these places are in Dorset, which is West Country.

The other usage was a use of the word 'docgena' as a translation of Latin 'canum' in an old English Glossary ~1050. This was a translation of a Latin Writer called Prudentius. Well I don't know where the translation was done but it's probably possible to find out.

1071611.  Tue Apr 29, 2014 4:43 am Reply with quote

Gyndawyr wrote:
Where does "pussy" come from?
No srsly.
Im not bothered to where "cat" comes from. Why "pussy-cat??"
Hold on, do I want to know how that came about? :S

Ohh well, Im sure Posital can explain :)

Maybe not related at all, but in Norwegian "pus" is a pet name/less formal way of saying cat. Cat is "katt," which obviously has the same root as the English word.

1071622.  Tue Apr 29, 2014 5:42 am Reply with quote

Probably very strongly related, in fact. says that puss is "A conventional name for a cat in Germanic languages".

It gives examples:

the principal word for "cat" in Rumanian (pisica) and secondary words in Lithuanian (puz), Low German (puus), Swedish dialect katte-pus, etc.

1072089.  Thu May 01, 2014 9:31 pm Reply with quote

Can I just make another comment here about early use of the word "dogge" in English, it was apparently generally an insult, ie.

[OE docga (only one instance) & cp. doggene-berwe, -ford (place names). In early ME dogge is usually depreciatory or abusive; see sense 1.]

1. (a) An ordinary dog or cur; curre ~; (b) as a term of abuse or contempt: a worthless or contemptible person; wretch, cur; -- also, said of the Devil.

The Anglo-Saxon hunting classes didn't call their own valued hunting dogs "dogs" - they called them "Hunds" (which is why these types of dogs are still called "hounds:).

The early use of "dog" as a term of abuse (and mostly likely slang) makes it more likely that it is a word the Anglo-Saxon speakers picked up from British speakers, and then used as a disparaging term for British dogs (and for people the Old English speakers disapproved of - a sort of implication of low class origins).

But then there are more "common" people (and dogs) so the word was likely to become more general.

1099061.  Fri Oct 24, 2014 4:14 pm Reply with quote

I have a random outside the box thought with no support at all..

I remember a story about the Dogon tribe. Apparently the Dog star was a strong cultural importance to them.. I think the tale may have been form Lyall Watson or von Daniken or some such cosmic source..

It relates that they drew the symbol for the Dog star in the sand and it seemed to represent a binary system. But this was before we have identified that the dog star was in fact a binary star..

Anyway. I wondered if the star which would have been known then as Canis majoris became known as the Dogon star..? and then perhaps later this was shortened to the dog star..?

I look forward to your humorous responses.. Particularly the ones that highlight my immense absence of any research or even basic sense of timeline on the idea,,


1123847.  Sun Mar 15, 2015 4:38 pm Reply with quote

Ozzie wrote:
The other usage was a use of the word 'docgena' as a translation of Latin 'canum' in an old English Glossary ~1050. This was a translation of a Latin Writer called Prudentius. Well I don't know where the translation was done but it's probably possible to find out.

The English of the manuscript is late West Saxon, however evidently that dialect was popular among writers of the time across England. Michael Lapidge says it was written in Canterbury, in Kent. However, the writer who wrote "docga" may have been from a different area, or the book may have been written in more than one location only being finished in Canterbury. The manuscript was written by at least 4 different writers. So it's not as easy as you might think! Anyway, the authorship of the manuscript doesn't seem to disprove your hypothesis anyway.

I do really like your Cornish hypothesis though. I think it has a lot going for it. I wonder if Cornish dor is cognate with English dirt?

1123940.  Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:12 pm Reply with quote

earthnut wrote:
I wonder if Cornish dor is cognate with English dirt?

I'd have to say that this seems improbable. Dirt didn't acquire its modern general meaning until around 1400, and before that it referred specifically to excrement. (ME had drytt for animal dung and schitte for human feces, although at some point these two words had swapped meanings because in OE sources drit is human feces and scite is animal dung.)

Isn't Cornish dor for earth or for the ground more likely to be a borrowing from French terre? I don't know much Cornish etymology, and I don't know how much the medieval Corns had to do with the French, but a route from French into Cornish via Breton seems at least possible.

But whencever Cornish got its word dorg, for sure it cannot be completely ruled out as the source of English dog. This is rather the problem with dog - there are a dozen posited etymologies which are rather unlikely but not impossible. One of them may well be the true one, but chances are that we'll never know which.

1124147.  Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:26 pm Reply with quote

And pussy-willow? Catkins?

(soz, running out ov werdz)

1124155.  Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:53 pm Reply with quote

The pussy willow is so called because the catkins are grey and furry, like tiny kittens stuck to the twig. They're actually called "pussies".

The Chambers dictionary says "catkin" is also named after cats.


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