The English verb butt, as when people butt heads or butt into a conversation, is, if not short and sweet, at least short. Such pithy, direct English words are often native, but butt entered the language from Old French bouter ‘to strike, thrust.’ If that sounds like Spanish botar—which can mean ‘to throw, throw away, cast, bounce, bound, knock over’—it’s because Old French bouter and Spanish botar were both borrowed from a word of Germanic origin.
From the verb bouter Old French created the noun boton, literally ‘something that thrusts forward.’ That has passed into English as button and into Spanish as botón, which now has additional meanings that include ‘knob, handle’ and ‘sprout, bud.’ In recent years Spanish has adopted botón de(l) ratón as a translation of the English computer term mouse button.
For more on the title of today’s post, you can check out a Wikipedia article.
© 2014 Steven Schwartzman