stevedore

For people named Steve (like me, for instance), the word stevedore may seem to have a personal connection, though that connection is only a coincidence of sound. And speaking of sound, English acquired the noun stevedore when speakers of the language encountered a Spanish word and transcribed it the way they heard it. That Spanish word was estibador, which designates ‘a person who loads cargo into a ship.’ The noun was based on the verb estibar ‘to stow [cargo]’ that had evolved from Latin stipare ‘to crowd, cram, press together, compress, pack’—all of which we can imagine stevedores—also called longshoremen—doing as they fit as much cargo as possible into a ship’s hold.

But that wasn’t the original sense of estibador. As Walter W. Skeat explained in his famous A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language, the Spanish noun originally meant ‘a wool-packer; hence a stower of wool for exportation, and generally, one who stows a cargo.’

© 2011 Steven (the stevedore of etymology into blog posts) Schwartzman

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. scribbla
    Sep 07, 2011 @ 14:08:13

    Fascinating. I wondered about this word. Now I know!

    Reply

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©2011–2016 Steven Schwartzman
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