Thursday, August 01, 2013


Penny asked about the word cling. It’s an Old English word that owes its existence to similar words found in East Frisian, Danish, Swedish, and allied languages. The sense of “sticking together” was a common element.

At first, the word described liquids that had frozen or congealed. Then it was applied to the shriveling of animal or human tissue. The idea of adherence and attachment soon followed, with a strong image of arms wrapping around something. It also applied to a garment, especially when wet. Cleaving to an idea or a practice was another offshoot.

Cousins to cling include clench and clink. To clench is to bend back the pointed end of a nail after driving it through a board in order to fix it securely. The associated meaning of clink is to rivet or fasten.

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

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