Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Fuel – Latin or Teutonish?

Today’s word of murky upspring is fuel.

The Oxford Dictionary Online (ODO) has:
fuel, from Old French fouaille, based on Latin focus ‘hearth’ (in late Latin‘fire’)

Online Etymology has:
fuel, early 14c., from Old French foaile "bundle of firewood", from Vulgar Latin legal term *focalia "right to demand material for making fire", neuter plural of Latin focalis "pertaining to a hearth", from focus "hearth" 

Wiktionary gets a little nearer with:
fuel, Old French fouaille, from feu (“fire”) … but then goes down the same path with feu from Latin focus (“hearth”), replacing Latin ignis (“fire”)

Rooted on focus? I think not. On the Teutonish word for fire? Much more likely! 

Let’s see what Kluge has to say about the root of fire
MidHG. viur, OHG. and OLG. fiur, older fuir, n.; comp. Du. vuur, AS. fyr (from *fuir), n., E. fire; a word common to West Teut. for ‘fire’: … comp. OIc. … furr, m., and fyre, n., ‘fire’. The r in all the words is a suffix, and fu … the root … p86, Feuer

We know that the French -aille is in English -al or -el. We also know that the French ou is a ū sound as in vous. The Teut. root is fu. Thus the French spelling of a Frankish/Teutonish root for fire would be *fou or *feu (See German Feuer). Now add the ending -aille and voilà: fouaille.

There was no need to twist and bend Latin focus into feu when there was already a Frankish/Teutionish root fu.

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