So why are books called books?

June 24, 2010 at 4:19 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
I love finding out where words come from. The history of our language tells us so much about our history as people! And the English language is a very crazy mix of many different languages, which says a lot about the history of England over thousands of years, especially the people who invaded England or parts of England and conquered it during that long time.
For example, we all know that a lot of English words come from ancient Latin – that’s because the Romans occupied England for almost five hundred years from 54BC to 410 AD. And many of our words come from the French language too – thanks to William the Conqueror who so famously invaded England and occupied it in 1066. And in between there were Germanic tribes who brought Germanic languages, then the Vikings who brought Old Norse. And of course the first Britons, even before the invasions, had their own language as well.
So the English language is a wonderful hodge podge of very different languages, and all the richer and more interesting because of it!
Now I got to wondering today why “books” are called “books”? And the answer is really interesting.
The word book comes from Old English “bōc” which in its turn comes from a Germanic root “*bōk-“, which means “beech” – as in the beech tree. Even more interestingly, if you look at other languages like Russian and even Latin and Sanskrit (the ancient language of India) their word for “book” also goes back to a type of tree.  
People who study the origin of language (etymologists) think that the reason why the word “book” derives from “beech” is that the first writing was inscribed on slabs of wood, called tablets, made out of beechwood, or maybe that the first writing was inscribed on beech trees themselves.
Maybe that’s why one of the nicest places to read a book is sitting under a tree!

Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: