Thursday, October 06, 2011


Margaret saw a sign advertising the Little Traverse Yacht Club when she was on the road recently and wrote to ask about the word yacht.

It has gone through innumerable spellings in English, but the word came through Dutch from the German. The German base was jagen, to hunt. The Dutch invented the swift vessel, designed to chase and hunt down freebooters and smugglers, in the 16th century.

That German root also shows up in jägermeister, a popular German liquer. Traditionally, the drink was served at the end of a meal, based on the belief that it would aid the digestive process. Jägermeister may be translated as “master of the hunt,” and it was an honorific applied to foresters and gamekeepers.

In a military sense, jäger meant light infantry.

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

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