Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Sam asked about the word varsity, a word invariably connected with schools. There are varsity sweaters, varsity cheerleading squads, varsity teams, varsity bookstores, and varsity grills and drive-ins, the most famous of which is located in Atlanta. There is even a varsity font that looks like the letters sewn on a varsity sweater or jacket.

In the late 17th century, the word was spelled versity, which makes it an obvious abbreviation of university. Early on, university referred to an entire number. Later, it was any community regarded collectively. By mid-19th century, the abbreviated spelling had become varsity.

SIDEBAR: Varsity Toast

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

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