Three pirate lasses

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It occurred to me recently to wonder about the derivation of the word "cutlass."

Turns out it's from Middle French "coutel," meaning knife, which ultimately derives from Latin "culter," meaning knife or plowshare. (! Had no idea that one word meant both things.)

And the "lass" part appears to be a Middle French augmentative suffix. So I gather that the Middle French "coutelas" basically meant "big knife."

Which made me wonder about another piratical term: "windlass." Which turns out to derive from Norse "vindāss," in which the "āss" part means "pole." So it's a winding-pole.

Kind of neat that the two lasses are etymologically distinct from each other as well as from the word "lass."

As well as, of course, from that third pirate-related lass, the spyglass.

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This page contains a single entry by Jed published on December 28, 2009 12:22 PM.

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