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  • Uncommon Journeys

Etymology of Travel Vocabulary

There are almost as many reasons to travel as there are travelers.

Intrigued by the myriad motivations, we sought insights through the etymology of some common, travel-related vocabulary.

According to Merriam Webster, travel comes from Middle English travailen, to torment or labor, or from Old French travailler, to work strenuously or toil.

In the 1550’s an adventure was a risky undertaking, from Anglo-French venture.

According to Simon Winchester, trip and travel derive from tripalium, a Roman instrument of torture. The link may reflect the extreme difficulty of travel in ancient times.

Luggage stems from the 1590’s use of lug, to drag something of more weight than value.

According to linguist Michiel de Vaan, explore originally meant a loud cry, from plore, to weep. It was a hunters' term that referred to scouting a hunting area by means of shouting.

Baggage originated in the 15th century from a word that meant plunder or loot. The same word was a synonym for a worthless woman or strumpet.

Contrary to shedding light, the findings made us scratch our heads and wonder why we ever spread our wings and ventured forth in the first place!


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