Dogs have a way of changing people’s lives. Even in the way we speak they have given us a hand. Before words like ‘doggo’ and ‘pupper’ and many others have invaded the lexicon, man’s best friend has influenced words and phrases that we use every day. Here are examples of dog-related words or idioms that have become a part of our vocabulary.
Dogwood is a tree that blooms in spring and berries in the fall. Some say it signals the coming of winter. As of its etymology, a popular theory suggests that it is derived from the Middle English ‘dag’ from the French ‘dague’ or a pointed object like a “dagger”. This comes from the tree’s hardwood and stems that have been used to make piercing tools. In this sense, some believe that ‘dog’ is a corruption of dag, but the evidence is unclear. The tree has also been called ‘dog tree’, ‘dogberry’, and ‘hound’s-berry’ because of the way the branches ‘bark’ when rubbing in the breeze.
In France, they call this insect chenille which in Latin means “little dog”. Apparently, people from olden times saw a resemblance with the fuzzy critter to various animals like dogs, bears, etc. ‘Caterpillar’ comes from the French dialect catepelose—Latin for “hairy” (pilus). Pilus is the root of the English word pile or “a coat or short furry hairs.”
Originally called Canary birds, this type of bird originated from the Canary Islands and was brought to Europe in the 16th century. The island’s name comes from the Latin Canariae insulae or “dog islands’ ‘ due to the large number of dogs inhabiting there from 50 B.C. to circa A.D. 24. Fast forward to the future, the dogs for which the islands were named have been erased from memory, but the birds remain closely linked to their namesake.
Canine is a derivative of the caninus which is based on canis that means “dog”. This term was used circa 1400 as a noun and adjective for the four-pointed teeth on the jaws of mammals (canine teeth). By the 17th century, people began to use it as an adjective (canine passion). The noun did not gain (a friendly canine) popularity until the 19th century.
Mutt originated in the early 1800s from the word muttonhead which is an expression to address a hapless or unlucky person. It is believed to be the foundation of the insult meathead. The term muttonhead was shortened to mutt and then became a general term for mongrel dogs and other four-legged animals.
Hold on tight because this next one gets dark. In the olden times, dogs that misbehaved violently in ways such as biting a person or stealing their food were punished and executed by hanging. In fact, there’s a Shakespeare play called Two Gentlemen of Verona that referenced this very act. Nowadays, it became an adjective describing dejection, guilt, or shame that resembled a puppy’s sad face. It is also used as a noun to refer to an ‘extremely degraded person’ that could hang a dog.
7. Bone to pick
Originally, the phrase “a bone to pick” meant “to have something to keep one occupied.” Hence, if somebody has a bone to pick, they have something to occupy their attention like a dog busy gnawing on a bone. But it evolved into “a problem or difficulty to solve”. So if you have “a bone to pick with someone,” you have an issue with that person that needs to be solved without hurry and with much gusto like a dog does with a bone.
If you enjoyed reading this, head over to ‘Snack’ And 6 Other Dog-Related Words or Phrases in the Dictionary.