Saturday, July 27, 2013


Francine asked about the word hamper. She wrote, “A hamper is where I throw my dirty laundry, but it’s also a verb I use to describe anything that blocks freedom of movement. How are they connected?”

Actually, they’re not connected at all except by the accident of spelling. This happens more often than people realize.

The noun hamper refers to a large basket, usually made of wicker. It came from an Old French word, hanapier, which was a case built to hold a hanap, a drinking vessel or wine glass. In some regions, a picnic basket is called a picnic hamper.

The verb to hamper means to restrain or hold back. A definitive origin is elusive, but it seems to have been first used in northern climes, such as regions near Iceland and Germany. In those languages, earlier forms of hamper meant to block or clog.

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

Nook edition

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