Frogs, with their bulging eyes and wide mouths, are a favourite of cartoon artists and have appeared in numerous stories. They are an indisputable part of our lives.


And it seems that this has long been the case. The word is little changed from Middle English forms frogge and vrogge. Take a look at this example taken from Lanfranc’s Complete Art of Surgery from around 1400:


Grene froggis þat lyuen among trees.


(Green frogs that lie among trees)


Not too difficult to recognise, you might think. And not too difficult to trace back into Old English. Our linguistic forebears, the speakers of Old English, bequeathed us the word frogga, also in the form frocga.


This example dates approximately from the 990s, from the Homilies of Aelfric (translated into modern English by Thorpe):


He afylde eal heora land mid froggum


(He filled all their land with frogs)


The form above, froggum, is in the dative case. The nominative form was, as stated above, frogga or frocga.


Unsurprisingly, the word comes from a Proto-Germanic root, and you can see modern cognates in other Germanic languages, such as Danish fro, German Frosch, Icelandic froskur, Norwegian frosk. The Proto-Germanic root may have been *frusk(a) or *froskaz, and it is thought to mean “hopper, jumper”, having derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *preu/ *prew, meaning “jump, hop”.


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