This week’s word is saunter. Walking is on my mind simply because I can’t. I broke a toe a few weeks ago and haven’t resumed my daily walks yet, much to my chagrin. When I do, I shall be sauntering rather than striding along at my usual pace.
What does saunter (pronunciation here) mean? It is to stroll in a slow, relaxed manner.
There are competing theories on the history of the word and it has changed meaning during its life.
The leisurely walk idea dates to 1660, but in the late 1400s to saunter was to muse or be in a reverie, so perhaps the reason they were walking slowly was because they were lost in thought.
The first origin theory is that it entered English from Anglo-French in the 1300s as a twist on s’aventurer (to take risks), but the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) find this unlikely.
Merriam Webster reckon saunter is probably from Middle English santren (to muse).
OED say it entered via Late Middle English and is of unknown origin.
Henry David Thoreau spread a fourth, incorrect, origin. He thought saunter came from Sainte-Terre, the French for Holy Land and that saunterers were pilgrims en route to Jerusalem, literally sainte-terrers. Sadly the dictionaries and linguists are united in rejecting this notion, but it’s an appealing idea.
Until next time happy reading, writing, and sauntering,
p.s. After ten years of blogging about the history of words I’ll be launching my first nonfiction book inspired by the Wordfoolery Blog on the 22nd of October. “How To Get Your Name In The Dictionary” is a light-hearted look at the lives of the soldiers, inventors, style icons, and villains who gave their names to the English language as eponyms. From atlas to zeppelin English is full of words named for Greek gods, explorers, serious scientists, and crafty chefs. These heroes and heroines, scattered through world history, all did something extraordinary to squeeze their name into the dictionary, and this book celebrates their biographies.
If any of you would like an advance copy for book review purposes, or would like me to guest post on your blog, you can contact me in the comments below or message @Wordfoolery on twitter. Thank you.