Monday, October 03, 2011


Patti read about acts of vandalism being perpetrated in the Old Town area of Traverse City and wrote to ask about the origin of the word.

It represents a very deep tribal memory. The Vandals were a Germanic tribe that swept across Europe and northern Africa as the Roman Empire was crumbling in the 5th century. They entered Rome itself in 455 and spent a couple of weeks trashing the city and carrying off everything that wasn’t bolted down.

Their reputation for looting and defacing led to the generic use of the term: wanton destruction or spoiling of another’s property. While the Romans had a word for Vandal, vandalism came into English through French in the 18th century.

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

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