Dictionary.com

What we call an “egg” almost had a different name. What was it, and why?

Like it or not, you probably have eggs on the brain. The massive recall of shell eggs is growing, along with reported cases of salmonella food poisoning. Learn the symptoms of salmonella and why it shares its name with salmon, right here.

While digging into the facts behind this scary situation, we found a story about the word “egg” that almost cracked our shell. Basically, two different terms for “egg” vied with each other across England  until the 1500s, when “egg” won out. The loser? The now obsolete word “eye,” which was pronounced just like the things you are using to read these words.

Way back, England faced more invasions than there are ways to cook an egg. The Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes and the Normans are some of the peoples who tried to conquer the island, with varying degrees of success. (It’s probably obvious that England derives its name from the Angles, “land of the Angles.”) Eventually the marauders beat their swords into ploughshares and even fell in love outside of their ancestral groups. Language, however has a way of preserving conflict across generations.

The languages spoken by many of these Germanic groups shared a common ancestor. With time and distance, each strand evolved into distinct languages that were no longer mutually intelligible — which brings us back to “egg.”

Up until the 1500s, residents of the Northern part of England called an egg an “egg,”  from Old Norse. But Southerners called the same oval, shelled object an “eye” or “eai” (both rhyming with “guy”),  from Old English. Both words started with the same Proto-Germanic root, ajja.  Even as William the Conqueror brought stability to the island, the linguistic battle of “egg” raged on in a myriad of conversations until “egg” became what you scramble, and a scrambled “eye” would only earn you confused glances.

What about “egg” as a verb? It comes from an entirely different source, the Old Norse eggja, “to incite.”

If you think all this seems bizarre, wait till you taste the mystery of where the word “coffee” comes from, here.

Hadrian’s Wall.(Review)

Antiquity September 1, 2000 | JAMES, N.; STODDART, SIMON DAVID J. BREEZE & BRIAN DOBSON. Hadrian’s Wall (4th edition). xvii+357 pages, 36 figures, 14 tables, 38 plates. 2000. London: Penguin; 0-14-027182-1 paperback 9.99 [pounds sterling] & Can$22.99.

Prof. WACHER’S description of Roman Britain uses the helpful concept of landscapes but less analytically than Ken & Petra Dark’s The landscape of Roman Britain (1997), which he does not cite. His procedure is similar: an outline of the Iron Age background followed by descriptions of the remains of military, agricultural, rural, urban and industrial activities. It is full of enlivening detail, and his critical assessments of the evidence are illuminating but, as his admirers would expect, Prof. WACHER dwells less than the Darks on the countryside and makes more of the urban and military archaeology; and, in stead of assessing continuities beyond the Roman period, he makes an interesting summary of `Roman survival in the modern landscape’. go to website hadrian s wall

Mr EDWARDS’ approachable little book will do a good job of helping local people to appreciate their archaeology. The first half describes the history of research; there is a brief summary of the Roman history; there are descriptions of the museum and of finds; the route for a walk is set out; and there is a gazetteer of inscriptions with very helpful commentary. It is a model. in our site hadrian s wall

The last edition of BREEZE & DOBSON came out 13 years ago. The new one is longer by 10%. Among the details updated are growing caution in attributions of work on Hadrian’s Wall to specific legions and new information on the phasing of the Antonine Wall. The chapter on the 3rd and 4th centuries has been substantially rewritten. Also up-dated is the next title; and the following one has the honour of replacing the booklet of the same title published 25 years ago, one of the very first of Shire’s pithy booklets on British archaeology.

JAMES, N.; STODDART, SIMON

53 Comments

  1. Anonymous -  November 20, 2011 - 11:26 am

    To the speaker of “Pig Latin”: actually, words that start with vowels follow different rules: egg is “eggway”

    Reply
  2. kate -  October 15, 2011 - 7:15 pm

    the word ‘eye’ was also the old english word for island (in a river), such as in the name “Swansea” (eye [or island] of the river Swan)

    also for daisy, or “day’s eye”

    Reply
  3. Al -  October 15, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    What?

    > The now obsolete word “eye,” which was pronounced
    > just like the things you are using to read these words.

    “EYE,” was pronounced just like “GLASSES?”

    Now… that’s just absurd…. ;-)

    Reply
  4. Billm -  October 15, 2011 - 5:04 am

    In Australia eggs are called cackleberries…

    Reply
  5. King Viz -  October 14, 2011 - 8:41 am

    I’m stunned that an article on dictionary.com was misuse the word “myriad”. It’s a schoolboy error to use “of” after “myriad” or “myriads”, look it up! Maybe next time you could use “in a plethora of conversations” or “in myriad conversations”… tsk.

    Reply
  6. John W. Kennedy -  October 14, 2011 - 6:44 am

    The most interesting thing about “eggs” and “eyren” is that the choice appears to have been a deliberate one by William Caxton (ca. 1415~1422 – ca. March 1492), the first English printer, who was very conscious of the fact that his new craft would bring standardization to the language.

    Reply
  7. Archon -  October 13, 2011 - 8:56 pm

    @ NANO NANO BLOGCHI

    Actually Nanu Nanu came first. I watched Robin Williams as Mork, correct those who made that mistake, on an episode fadeout one day. Then Shalzbot came second, or so he told Johnnie Carson one night.

    Reply
  8. K -  February 19, 2011 - 3:41 pm

    In Russian the word for Sunny-side up eggs is “glazok”. The word for eye is “glaz”. Coincidence?

    Reply
  9. suberbian of Tokyo -  October 6, 2010 - 3:37 am

    一目を置くliterally translates putting one eye on someone, meaning acknowlege sb’s superiority.

    Reply
  10. finn -  September 23, 2010 - 7:59 am

    Ha, although the similarities in different languages of the two words and the origins and everything is interesting, here’s one for you:

    In finnish the eyeball translates to silmämuna, silmä meaning eye and muna meaning egg.

    Reply
  11. Lurpiz -  September 22, 2010 - 2:45 pm

    Eye in swedish is spelled öga. It is not, however, pronounced anything like the english or swedish word for egg (ägg, in swedish; same pronounciation.)

    Reply
  12. NANO NANO | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  September 2, 2010 - 2:28 pm

    [...] NANO” said MORK from ORK who arrived on Earth in an EGG_POD — Shazbot came second — Where Apple began having grown into a full sized Robot. — [...]

    Reply
  13. Elin Niclasen -  August 25, 2010 - 12:11 pm

    Wow, I really enjoy “the hot word” because I like learning English. Runs in my family. I’m from the Faroe Islands and I really enjoy finding words that the Faroese and English languages have in common, such as the last mentioned word here “eggja”, meaning incite; it’s a word very much used in the Faroese language today with the exact same meaning! :)

    Reply
  14. TK -  August 25, 2010 - 1:48 am

    my name is thanesh kumar.
    currently 22 years old.
    single and available.
    i am study BOSS university.
    Bachelor of social and service.

    Reply
  15. thanesh kumar -  August 25, 2010 - 1:39 am

    my name is thanesh kumar.
    currently 22 years old.
    single and available.
    i am study BOSS university.
    Bachelor of social and service.

    Reply
  16. Curly Hair -  August 21, 2010 - 7:50 pm

    @Jen: Yeah, I think it is a coincidence. Rowling’s good…but not THAT good.

    Reply
  17. cna training -  August 21, 2010 - 9:27 am

    found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

    Reply
  18. smurfette_unicorn -  August 21, 2010 - 8:00 am

    imagine: fried eyes and ham for breakfast. Wacky.

    Reply
  19. premiere chocolate -  August 21, 2010 - 3:55 am

    I shall eye on the things that have been happening.

    Reply
  20. Me-dama Oyaji -  August 20, 2010 - 11:42 pm

    In Japanese, we call sunny side up “Me-dama Yaki”. “Me” means “eye”, “dama” means “ball”, “yaki” means “fry”, therefore, “Medama Yaki” means “fried eye-ball(s)” :)

    Reply
  21. Jackie -  August 20, 2010 - 8:55 pm

    Aye, language preserves many conflicts (minor and major) of our ancestors. Like the old Germanic Goths and Vandals. “Goth” used to be quite negative until the literary world spiced it up a bit. Or even the word picnic (Pick-a-Nick; afternoon slave auctions), which is a particularly innocent perversion.

    Reply
  22. dark chocolate -  August 20, 2010 - 7:51 pm

    Egg in Japanese is ‘tamago’, whose chinese character signifies a child of a ball or children of balls. The singular and plural term is the same.
    ‘Tama’contains several meanings but primarily refers to a round-shaped object like a tennis ball. It also means a piece of jewery and a crystal ball. In a vulgar speech, it means testicles and a broad/chic.

    Reply
  23. Koric -  August 20, 2010 - 7:24 pm

    That’s funny

    Reply
  24. Pebble -  August 20, 2010 - 4:23 pm

    I love this page. I enjoyed the comments, I’ll be back!!

    Reply
  25. Corey -  August 20, 2010 - 1:16 pm

    For the post about right / left and mispronouncing, I have to agree with the earlier post… that for kids five and under, mispronouncing words is due to their condition of being, well, 5 or under.

    However, for ongoing conditions and such, mayhap this will help:

    Aphasia is one of the umbrella type terms for conditions such as Dyslexia, Dysnomia, and the like… and the things that were asked about seem to be things that would be related to Aphasia, or at least be in the same proverbial sport.

    If you’re interested in it, wiki Aphasia and go from there.

    Reply
  26. BERE -  August 20, 2010 - 12:53 pm

    Eye in swedish is written öga and it is pronounced almost the same as in english egg

    Reply
  27. adam cairns -  August 20, 2010 - 12:40 pm

    There are some good Eggsamples here :). Eye don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t of fell on this site. This is eggsactly the sort of thing I was looking for.

    Reply
  28. Alex -  August 20, 2010 - 12:40 pm

    In German egg translates to Ei (pronounced eye)

    Reply
  29. WALNUT -  August 20, 2010 - 11:25 am

    EGGS, EGGS, EGGS, NUMMY NUM NUM. BUT COOK THE WHITES PLEASE!

    Reply
  30. Ctt -  August 20, 2010 - 10:58 am

    An eye for an eye?

    Reply
  31. Greg -  August 20, 2010 - 9:47 am

    Egg in pig latin is ggeay.

    Reply
  32. EGG | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  August 20, 2010 - 8:56 am

    [...] hard to find a Good “EGG” anymore — though some “Eggheads” have good intentions which paves the path to [...]

    Reply
  33. Mark V -  August 20, 2010 - 8:49 am

    The term for Children that mispronounce words is called “Being 5″

    Interestingly, at 23, I now refer to it as “pasketti” more often than not.

    Reply
  34. Waldo Pepper -  August 20, 2010 - 8:05 am

    And let us not forget the phrase “bad egg” as in: Lindsay Lohan is the baddest egg in the land.

    Reply
  35. Ahmad Osman -  August 20, 2010 - 7:44 am

    The style of this article is an absolute catastrophe. I should save it and present it as an example of a hyperinflation not to be emulated. All the twirling and swirling lose both the meaning and the reader. Ridiculous.

    Reply
  36. Jen -  August 20, 2010 - 7:20 am

    Interesting that there is also a chapter in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” entitled “The Egg and the Eye.” Coincidence?

    Reply
  37. esther cho -  August 20, 2010 - 7:18 am

    wow

    Reply
  38. chocolate sunday -  August 20, 2010 - 7:02 am

    I eye ei, then.

    Reply
  39. Alan Turner -  August 20, 2010 - 6:51 am

    Who eggs you people on to write these replies?

    Reply
  40. newjustine -  August 20, 2010 - 6:18 am

    The word for egg in Dutch is ei – pronounced ‘eye’.

    Reply
  41. autumn around the corner -  August 20, 2010 - 6:17 am

    Eggs should be boiled to serve so that they get messy. I wish you make me breakfast sometimes. I bet you are a good cook!

    Reply
  42. Tim -  August 20, 2010 - 4:01 am

    The Dutch word for ‘egg’ is also ‘ei’. Also pronounced somewhat like the English ‘eye’.

    Reply
  43. i would like to c a blog on this -  August 20, 2010 - 2:20 am

    I have requested this before, and as your last blog requested that we make suggestions for the blogs we want to pertaining to medical conditions etc.
    I would like to put this one up.
    What are people who confuse LEFT and RIGHT (directions ) called?
    What is the term for people who mispronounce words as children do called?
    for eg: stammering and stuttering is for the people who pause repeatedly while talking; lisping is when ppl touch their palate with the tip of their tongue while pronouncing S.

    Reply
  44. divs -  August 19, 2010 - 9:56 pm

    Does the hen know all this?

    Reply
  45. Johnny Deigh -  August 19, 2010 - 9:02 pm

    See, eye is something like oega in Norse.

    Also in French, there is only a tiny difference in pronunciation from eyes and eggs (des yeux, des oeufs).

    Reply
  46. Johnny Deigh -  August 19, 2010 - 8:58 pm

    I’m pretty sure that the word for eye in Skandinavian sounds a lot like egg too.

    Reply
  47. tasha88 -  August 19, 2010 - 8:50 pm

    The German word for egg is “Ei” (pronounced “eye”).

    Reply
  48. sunnysideup -  August 19, 2010 - 5:05 pm

    The eggs have been egged by salmonella.

    Reply
  49. asd -  August 19, 2010 - 5:00 pm

    brown

    smelly

    runny

    goat

    Reply
  50. asd -  August 19, 2010 - 4:59 pm

    eggs suck

    Reply
  51. Crowe -  August 19, 2010 - 4:59 pm

    Cockney comes from the same thing. The cockneys are supposedly thinsg you cannot trust and what else can’t you trust?

    A cock’s egg, or rather, a cock ‘n’ egg, or rather again, a cock ‘n’ eye.

    Reply

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked (required):

Related articles

Back to Top