In my other blog last month a commenter from Spain used the verb merodear. I didn’t know it, but by the context I figured that it was probably the cognate of English maraud, and when I checked I found I was right. Both Spanish and English took the word from French, but apparently from different versions. The standard French verb is marauder, based on the noun maraud that means ‘vagabond, robber, thief, stealer.’ Spanish took its word from a dialectal form, and that accounts for the different first vowel.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. shoreacres
    Nov 21, 2015 @ 16:41:54

    I noticed the note in the OED that the Spanish merodear was popularized during the Thirty Years’ War by association with Imperialist General Count Mérode. I thought that was interesting, but when I snooped around a bit, I found sources like this, that asserted there were at least three Counts Mérode, all of whom were nasty sorts.

    The source I linked went on to say that “the suggestion that the word “marauder” is derived from one of these precious captains is certainly a mistake.Maurad, maurauder, and mauraudise had existed for at least a hundred years before, [and] are found in the French Dictionary of Stephanus, 1549.”

    “What the true derivation of “maurader” is remains uncertain. Mahn (Etymol. Forschung., p. 10) can only suggest the Latin morator,” often used in Livy for the ‘loitering straggler’.”

    It’s interesting to ponder whether the dialetical form that led to the Spanish merodear was associated with one of the Counts.


    • Steve Schwartzman
      Nov 22, 2015 @ 05:13:44

      You did more research into this than I did; I should give you a byline. (At a book talk about the Texas Rangers last night, author Mike Cox mentioned that the writer H. Allen Smith gave him one bit of advice about writing: never use a semicolon. I think you think that’s sound advice.)

      I’m not home now, or else I’d see what my big French etymological dictionary says about the earliest known use of maraud in that language.


      • shoreacres
        Nov 22, 2015 @ 09:37:08

        While still in school, I used semicolons a good bit. When I started writing for my blog, they began to seem awkward, and even forced. Then, I bought William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and found a word of permission to use them sparingly:

        “There is a 19th-century mustiness that hangs over the semicolon. We associate it with the carefully balanced sentence, the judicious weighing of “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” of Conrad and Thackeray and Hardy… I use it myself — usually to add a related thought to the first half of a sentence. Still, the semicolon brings the reader, if not to a halt, at least to a pause. So use it with discretion…and rely instead on the period and the dash.”

        I love this, from George Eliot’s Middlemarch:

        “He has got no good red blood in his body,” said Sir James. “No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all semicolons and parentheses,” said Mrs. Cadwallader.”


        • Steve Schwartzman
          Nov 24, 2015 @ 16:16:06

          There may well have been some semicolons in your post, but if so, I didn’t notice; that’s why I said I thought you’d find H. Allen Smith’s advice to be sound. Now I see the truth is more nuanced.

          That’s a funny quotation from Middlemarch, a book I confess I’ve never read.


  2. Maria F.
    Dec 03, 2015 @ 06:46:37

    “Merodear” is used here extensively. It has negative connotations because someone who is “merodeando” (present participle), is simply “hanging around”, getting into trouble or drifting around. I think “rodear” (going around, surrounding) is part of this word.


    • Maria F.
      Dec 03, 2015 @ 07:26:47

      “Rodear” comes from Medieval Latin rotarius “pertaining to wheels,” from Latin “rota” “a wheel, a potter’s wheel; wheel for torture,” from PIE root *ret- “to run, to turn, to roll”. Old French rouer “to break on the wheel” (15c.), from Latin rotare “roll” (see rotary), I think they don’t relate, then I looked up Helena from Chile and this is what she said:


      • Steve Schwartzman
        Dec 03, 2015 @ 08:40:13

        As you noted, rodear, looks like part of merodear, and the two have partly overlapping meanings, but there’s no etymological connection. The large Dictionnaire étymologique de la lange française supports what you found in Etimologías de Chile. There are two main hypotheses, one having to do with cats and the other with farm tools.


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