Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chip Off the Old Block

Fergus asked whether a wood chip and a computer chip are related. They are, obviously not in their function, but in their etymological source.

The original chip came from a verb that meant to cut or chop. The OED speculates that chip relates to chop much the same as drip relates to drop. In other words, chip and drip express slighter and more delicate actions than chop and drop.

Chip has evolved in meaning over the centuries:

  • a small, thin piece of wood, stone, or other material, separated by hewing, cutting, or breaking;
  • in gem-cutting, a cleavage which weighs less than three-fourths of a carat;
  • a paring of bread-crust;
  • a thin irregular slice of fruit; pl. fried pieces of potato, usually oblong in shape;
  • a counter used in games of chance;
  • anything worthless or trifling;
  • a piece of dried buffalo or cattle dung;
  • something derived from a larger or more important thing, which it still resembles;
  • a nickname for a ship’s carpenter;
  • a crack or slight fracture caused by chipping;
  • a chip-shot in golf.

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

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Arbutus Press
or at

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now.

There is a collection of podcasts. Go to and click on Podcasts. Scroll down The Ron Jolly Show to find the Words to the Wise audio button.

Visit The Senior Corner at



Post a Comment

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints