Meanings: “Gossip”

January 10, 2012

Having my hair cut today, I fell to wondering about the origin of “gossip” as a word.  I couldn’t think of any words roughly like it (is there another multi-syllable word that ends in -ip?); gos- didn’t seem like any prefix or stem I knew; and -sip didn’t seem like any suffix or stem I knew.  So where did this odd word come from?

From God-sibb, where sibb is an Old English word that means relative — now preserved in “sibling.”  So God-sibbs were like Godparents, only extended more broadly.  Now imagine a group of God-sibbs gathering with a woman at the time of her giving birth, and imagine the talk among them.  Stir with several centuries, and voilà, “gossip.”

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About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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