Thursday, December 18, 2008


Shaggy is probably related to an Old Norse word that meant the untended straggly growth that would spring up at the edge of cultivated land. It didn’t take long before its resemblance to an unkempt beard was noted and used.

Hideous, horrible, and horrid conceal references to shagginess, perhaps because the hair on the back of the neck stands up when we are confronted with something dreadful and frightful. That’s known as horripilation.

Velvet, the fabric, comes from a Latin word that meant shaggy hair. Hirsute also falls into that category, as does villus, a slender hairlike process.

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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