The Etymology of a Book

Kristen Twardowski

We think of books as being filled with words and ideas, but they themselves are also a word and an odd one that. So how did the English word “book” come to be?

The term originated from several linguistic paths. Its closest relative is the Old English word bōc, which also meant book. As German speakers may guess, bōc shares a root with the Old Saxon word bôk and Old High German word buoh. The original meaning of these words was not “book” as we know it today, but rather referenced some sort of “writing-tablet, leaf, or sheet.”

Linguists believe that the various iterations of these terms are related to the Old English term bóc and Old Norse term bók, both of which reference beech trees. It is suggested that early written works may have been drafted on paper or tablets made from the bark of beech trees. It…

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. James McEwan says:

    The origin of words are fascinating and are an indication of both the migration and relationships between people over hundreds of years. From German we have Das Buch (the book) and die Buche (the Beech tree). As you have indicated there are many similarities of the word and its same meaning across Europe.
    But most of all the fascination of a physical book is more satisfying to me than the cyber version the e-book. One that you can hold and doesn’t need its battery recharging and if you are posh the hardbacks make great ornamental pieces on shelves. In which case it is annoying – ‘When they go Missing.’

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jon says:

    Great points here!

    Liked by 1 person

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