precocious
adj. prematurely developed, as the mind, faculties, etc.

You might be wondering why I chose a rather pedestrian word like “precocious” rather than my usual kind of esoteric wonder. As it turns out, I happened to stumble across this interesting bit of etymology as I was researching the origin of the word “apricot.”

An apricot is an Asian fruit that found its way into Europe via Armenia (hence why it is known as an ‘Armenian plum’). It develops more quickly than the peach, and so its original Latin name was præcoquum, which is derived from the root præcox, an adjective form of the verb meaning “to ripen early.” The Latin was accepted into Greek as praikókion (πραικόκιον), into Arabic as al-barqūq (البرقوق), and into the Portuguese albricoque. We took it in the mid-16th century as abrecock, but later assimilated it to the French form, abricot.

I would have never even guessed at the connection between words and fruit.

§1748 · February 28, 2007 · Tags: , , ·

2 Comments to “Wednesday’s Word: precocious”

  1. Rusty says:

    I must say, that’s a cracking word-history.

  2. S4R says:

    I want a history of Brit slang and cursing.

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