Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mail – Latin or Teutionish?

Today’s word of murky upspring is mail.

The Oxford Dictionary Online (ODO): 

mail, (also denoting the individual metal elements composing mail armor): from Old French maille, from Latin macula ‘spot or mesh’

Online Etymology pretty much has the same thing:
mail, "metal ring armor," c.1300, from Old French maille "link of mail, mesh of net," from Latin macula "mesh in a net," originally "spot, blemish," on notion that the gaps in a net or mesh looked like spots.

The word mail has two meanings in English from two otherly roots. Both come thru French. One, the mail we send each other, is said to hav West Germanic roots. Okeh.

The other “armor made of metal rings or plates, joined together flexibly” is given as: from Old French maille, from Latin macula ‘spot or mesh’.

A spot? Well, now. Is there a Teutonic root meaning spot that is nearer to maile than the Latin macula? Let’s look at the root of German Mal. From Kluge (Mal, p224) we get: 

Mal (1.), n., ‘mark, spot’, from MidHG. mal, n., ‘spot’, OHG. *mal in the compound anamali, ‘spot, scar’; identical with MidHG. and OHG. mal, ‘period, point’ … Its primit. kinship with Goth, mail, n., ‘spot’, is uncertain, yet Mal has at all events assumed the meaning of Goth, mail, which is normally represented by OHG. and MidHG. meil, n.; to this corresponds AS māl, whence E. mole.

Bosworth-Toller links AS māl ‘spot, mark, mole’ (also ‘an action, suit, cause’) to Goth. mail ‘spot, blemish’ and OHG meil. There is also OE mæle ‘spotted, markt’.

So we can eathly see that there is a Teutonish root much near in sound and spelling to OF maille than the Latin macula.

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