Etymologies: fret, shebang, moron

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New Member
US, German
fret, as in to worry unnecessarily or excessively. According to some sources this word comes from old Germanic "freten (fretan)", as in the Dutch word for (animal) eating, which could conceivably end up meaning "to corrode".

However, it is still a bit of a symantic leap from this to "worrying". Could this sense of the word perhaps have a different origin? Or, if not, how did it come to mean "to worry"? OK, I can imagine that something "eats at you", but this implies that the sense of the word was inverted - i.e. the new meaning would amount to the passive sense of the supposed old meaning. Frankly, I can't think of too many examples of such a linguistic phenomenon - but then again, maybe someone can remind me of a few others.

Any ideas on the next two besides "o.o.o."?

shebang, as in "the whole ~"

yack, as in "to talk incessantly -> cf. Antonio's question

ah, and finally "moron"... certainly a key concept and critical adjunct to the American tongue. As I recall according to the old version of it's from Greek "moros".... but I could neither find it in my Greek dictionaries online/offline (tried "μωροσ" and "μoροσ"), nor in my memory (I only recall "βλάκας"). And if it really is from Greek, when and how did it make its way into English?


Scott Freeman
Beijing, China
  • csfreeman

    New Member
    US, German
    Dorian said:
    All these four words are listed in the etymology site that I mentioned in the other thread:
    Thanks, Dorian, that site is great, even if nothing is perfect. I think that the alleged derivation of fret in the meaning of "to worry" from "to eat" seems a bit far-fetched.... and it would seem that even there "to yack" still has "o.o.o." status.

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