Tuesday, December 1, 2009


eldritch \ˈel-drich\ adjective: weird, eerie

Etymology: perhaps from Middle English elfriche fairyland, from Middle English elf + riche kingdom, from Old English rīce

What a weird word for weird.


Greg said...

Being somewhat versed in Old and Middle English, I am baffled by the suggestion that the morpheme elf becomes eld. It doesn't make sense for voiceless [f] to become anything but voiced (i.e., [v]).

I might be inclined to think that that eld derives from ald / alt, meaning old, except for the fact that old + kingdom doesn't translate to weird or eerie. Then again, modern weird ultimately derives from wyrd, meaning fate, (e.g.,the weird sister in MacBeth), making eldritch a fated kingdom (as in fated for destruction or ruin).

Travis said...

The etymology I cited came from Merriam-Webster, but Wiktionary states: Old English el- (“foreign, strange, uncanny”) + rīċe ("realm, kingdom"). That seems to make more sense.

Greg said...

That, indeed, seems like a more likely etymology. Do you have access to the OED online? It's a much better source for the history of English than Merriam, but I realize that, for the most part, only universities are going to subscribe. Anyways, keep up the good work!