Ten Modern Words You Never Knew Have Old Literary Origins

By alin | 2 years ago
Ten Modern Words You Never Knew Have Old Literary Origins

You may think some popular words and idioms we use today are words recently added to the English word’s lexicon. Well, you’d be surprised to know that some popular modern words have been around for quite a while. We are talking about centuries here. Read on as we count down to 10 modern words you probably don’t know came from classic literature.

Robot (“Rossum’s Universal Robots” by Karel Čapek)


Čapek used the term in his 1920 sci-fi play. It came from “robotnik,” which means a slave or worker in Czech.

Freelance (“Ivanhoe” by Walter Scott)

“Freelance” means not being committed to a single employer or self-employed. Sir Walter Scott used the term in his 1820 novel to describe a mercenary warrior with no alliance to a particular lord.

Unfriend (“Brut” by Layamon)

This popular social media term came all the way back from around 1275. The term “unfriend” was used in the poem, which means “one who is not a friend.”

Muggle (“Brut” by Layamon)

Here’s another from Layamon’s “Brut.” The word “muggle” means “a tail to resemble a fish,” and the people with tails are called “mugglings.” This is different from J. K. Rowling’s “muggles.”

Eyesore (“The Taming of the Shrew” by William Shakespeare)

This word means something offensive or unpleasant on the eye and was first used by in Shakespeare’s comedy “The Taming of the Shrew.


Email (“The Terrors of the Night” by Thomas Nashe)

In his 1594 work, Nashe used the word “email” to replace the word “enamel.” Its way off from the modern-day meaning “electronic mail.”

Google (“The Magic Faraway Tree” by Enid Blyton)

Sergey Brin and Larry Page made this word famous when they founded the search engine “Google” (BackRub was the original name) in 1998. The term “Google” was used by Raymond Chandler in letter sent to his agent in 1953. Google was also used by Enid Blyton in her 1941 novel as “Google Bun,” and Google was the name of a clown in her 1942 book “Circus Days Again.”

Fangirl (“Holy Deadlock” by A. P. Herbert)

In 1934, A. P. Herbert used the term “fangirl” to describe the fans waiting outside a theatre in his novel “Holy Deadlock.”

Nerd (“If I Ran The Zoo” by Dr. Seuss)

This 1950 book was the first to use “nerd” to describe someone who is studious and contemplative.

“And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/And Bring Back an It-Kutch, a Preep, and a Proo,/A Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!” as the famous line goes.

Tween (“The Hobbit” by J. R. R. Tolkien)

J. R. R. Tolkien first used the term to describe a Hobbit aged 20 to 33. Today, we use the term for a person who is 11 or 12 years old.

There you have it for the 10 modern words with old literary origins. Spread the word and follow Movie News Guide (MNG) for more interesting lists and entertainment features.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons/National Portrait Gallery/Uploaded byGianniG46