These days, we tend to think of the different meanings of draw as being totally separate – why would we connect draw the curtains with draw a sword or, and especially this meaning tends not to be associated with the others, with draw a picture.

However, these are not separate words, they are one and the same and the meanings come from the same place – all involve the action of pulling or dragging. Even if we take my last example above, drawing with a pencil, the dragging action is still present. The word comes from the idea of dragging a writing implement across parchment – drawing the implement. The sense of the word gradually transferred from the action of pulling to the resulting marks on the paper – no one thinks in terms of pulling a pencil to make a picture today!


This is a word with a long history. There were numerous versions of it in Middle English, including the word in the form we know it today. Here is an example, unchanged from the modern usage, from Lydgate’s Troy Book, from around 1425:

Euery purtreyour Þat coude drawe, or with colour peynt

(Every artist that could draw or colour with paint)

Besides this easily recognisable form, there were others such as drau, drauen, dragen, drauhen and drouen, and more besides. You might be thinking that you recognise another word in that group – “drag”. And indeed, the two have similar meanings, and are ultimately from the same Proto-Germanic root. However, while “drag” may have come to us via an Old Norse word, draga, its cognate “draw” is from Old English dragan. You might be thinking that this is very similar to drag, but it was to develop into draw, while Old Norse contributed, or perhaps even reintroduced drag.

This example of dragan is from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle:

Eall ðæt ða beón dragen toward ða dráne dragaþ fraward

(All that the bees have drawn towards them, the drones draw out)

As I have already stated, both the Old English dragan (draw) and the Old Norse draga (drag) can be traced back to Proto-Germanic, to the root *dragan, meaning, not surprisingly, “to drag, draw, pull”. German tragen also comes from this root.

Going back a further step, we come to Proto-Indo-European, and the root *dhragh-, meaning “to draw, to drag along”. Evidently, this has been a strong word, remaining largely unchanged on its journey through time.


The falcon is a bird of long association with humankind. It appears on heraldic devices, there are references to it in poetry and various literary works, and falconry has a long history.


But where does the word come from?


The answer is not as straightforward as you might expect. The first stage is to go back to Middle English, where it appears under several spellings, as faucon, faulcon and falcon. Here is an early example from the Middle English poem the Owl and the Nightingale, perhaps from 1275:


Þe faucun was wroþ wit his bridde


(the falcon was angry (rough) with its fledgling)


This form is known to have come from Old French faucon, which was in turn derived from Late Latin falconem. So far, so easy. But this is where the plot thickens and opinions diverge.


The first theory is that it came from Latin falx, which meant “sickle, curved blade”. This would probably have been used for the bird in reference to its curved beak or talons and it seems to be a logical conclusion.


However, before you nod your head in agreement, there is another theory. This suggests that Latin falconem was of Germanic origin, perhaps from Proto-Germanic *falco, meaning “falcon”. This would then be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European root *pol-, meaning “pale”. The thought behind this is that it would have meant “lighter bird” or possibly “grey bird”. Proponents of the theory point to the fact that the word was already part of Germanic in antiquity, predating its known debut in Latin. On the other hand, the sport of falconry, which has early references in Mesopotamia, and Chinese texts describing it from 600 BC, would have reached the Germanic peoples via the Romans, thus making it more likely for the word to have developed from Latin.


However, the objection to this point is that while the Germanic peoples may not have been familiar with falconry as a sport, there is no reason to assume that they were also unfamiliar with the bird itself and thus did not have a word for it.


**I was inspired to write this article by Falconry and the Tudors by Katharine Edgar


We can use this word in several different ways today. You might talk of a flock of sheep or a flock of birds, but it can also mean “congregation of Christians”, in a transferred sense from the sheep. There are also expressions, such as “birds of a feather flock together”.


We take the word from Middle English, where it can be found as floc, flokk, flok and even flock.


It was not used only for birds or sheep, but for groups of other animals too. Take a look at this example from 1225, from the Homilies in Cambridge (Trinity College).


þat he hem sende into floc of swin.


(that he send him into a flock (drove) of swine).


Going back a little further to Old English, the word has not changed. It appears as flocc or floc. But it was not for the exclusive use of animals, but rather meant “group, company” in a more general sense, and was used to refer to crowds of people too. Consider this reference from the Saxon Chronicles, from the ninth century:


Him mon mid óðrum floccum sóhte


(they were sought after by other companies).


Cognates for the word exist in other Germanic languages, such as Swedish flock and Danish flok, meaning “band, flock or pack”. There are two schools of thought as to where it ultimately comes from. Some believe that it is related to folc (folk), meaning “people”, but it was unusual for Old English to present metathesis (the vowel and consonant changing places). Others postulate a separate Proto Germanic root *flukka, *flokka, meaning “crowd, troop”. It may have been unusual, but it was not impossible for there to have been metathesis of folc to flocc, yet this does not explain how the same metathesis occurred in other languages, unless it actually occurred earlier, during the Proto-Germanic stage. In either scenario, there is a tendency to link folc and flocc, but the uncertainty remains.

Kick Start

In honour of JumpMag’s Kickstarter Campaign


Whether hyphenated, written as one word or two, kick start is easily recognised and popular in usage.


It has the feel of a new, fresh idiom, and indeed it is! It barely measures one hundred years of life, a mere blink of the eye in the thousands of years of language use.


So where does it come from? The answer is simple. It comes from motorcycles. It arose from the design of motorcycle engines that require the user to kick a device in order to start it – thus, the motorcycle is “kick-started”.


The first reference in print to this phrasing is from 1912, when it appears in a classified ad in the Evening Post newspaper in Wellington, New Zealand. It took a further two years, until 1914, for it to make its debut in Britain, at least in print, and then its career was, as it were, kick started, and references started to appear with greater frequency.


The literal meaning gave rise to the figurative sense, that of giving a sudden great impetus to something, and of course, it is in this sense that we see it frequently today. This being the case, I would like to ask you to add your impetus to the Jump Magazine Kickstarter Project, the online pre-teen publication that is looking for support.


Far from having me shaking in fear and panic, the recent earthquake has spurred me on to research the word itself.


It has long been used in reference to the ground shaking, as well as people and objects trembling. In Middle English, it appears in a great many forms, such as quaken, cwaken, hwaken, and so forth. Here is an example from the South English Legendary, from around 1300:


Þe eorþe bi-gan to quake, Ase wide ase þe cite was


(The earth began to quake, all across the city.)


It did not start its story in English there. Going back to Old English, we can again find it in reference to an earthquake, such as in the Old English version of Orosius’ History Against the Pagans, from the Alfredan translation programme, during the 880s;


Seó eorþe wæs cwaciende


(the earth was quaking).


In this example, the verb used is cwacian, meaning “quake, tremble” and could even be used to refer to the chattering of teeth.


No cognates for the word are known in other languages, and it is not known where the Old English word might have come from.


Such a small, but such an important word: yes.


Perhaps because of the need to have a strong word to indicate consent or affirmation, this word has been with us a long time. We find it in Old English as gise or gese, which was used as “yes”, but literally meant “so be it”. Interestingly, both forms can be used together, such as in gise, lá gese (yes, oh yes!), from King Alfred’s version of Boethius.

It was formed from or géa, meaning “so, thus”, with the simple addition of si, from the verb beón, which means “to be”.