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.”