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.”


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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