A complete etymology for the word "cog"

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gkhan

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#1  Edited By gkhan

A cog is originally a notch on a gear, one of the small little teeth that hooks onto other gears and makes them turn.

It first enters the English language in the 13th century and has meant much the same thing ever since. Here, for instance, is a quote from Stephen Hawes The pastime of pleasure, written in 1509:

A great whele made by craftly Geometry, Wyth many cogges.

Wasn't English much prettier in 1509? At least I think so!

Tracing the word backwards through history, we find that in Middle English it was cogge (which you can see in that quote). It was almost certainly borrowed from a word in Old Norse (the language the Vikings spoke in Scandinavia), and it still exists in some variant today in Swedish and Norwegian as kugg (meaning "notch", basically). Before that, it came from a Proto-Germanic root kuggo, probably also meaning "cog" or "notch". Proto-Germanic is the language that is the ancestor to all Germanic languages (including English), but it was spoken long before people were actually writing down words, so all the roots (like kuggo) are only "best guesses" that linguists have made to what the language might have sounded like.

Before that it's very speculative, but it might even be traced back to a Proto-Indo-European root guga, meaning "hump" or "ball". Proto-Indo-European is, like Proto-Germanic, also an entirely reconstructed language, but this one is the ancestor to virtually all the languages spoken in Europe (including English, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Swedish, Norwegian, Irish, etc. etc.) as well as a bunch of languages spoken in Asia, including Hindi and Urdu. We know for sure that it existed (probably around 4000 B.C in modern day Ukraine), but we can only guess what it might have sounded like.

Anyway, as cog made its way through English, it acquired new meanings. In the 18th century, people were calling gears cog-wheels (as in "wheels surrounded with cogs"), and soon people were shortening that to just cogs. Therefore, in modern day English, cog can mean both "a gear" and "one of the teeth on the edge of a gear", so some confusion over the exact definition over the word is entirely understandable.

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MooseyMcMan

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#2  Edited By MooseyMcMan

Neat! I always thought it was just the teeth, but this is good to know!

Also, Coalition of Ordered Governments.

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RaikohBlade

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#3  Edited By RaikohBlade

You must really love the word "cog," to have devoted so much time into making this thread. Unless of course, all of that information is from your own memory, in which case you are a human data bank.

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SuperWristBands

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#4  Edited By SuperWristBands

I didn't even know it referred to the teeth of the gear, I thought it was just another word for gear. Thanks for learning me something today gkhan!

Also, English in 1509 looks like a bad forum post by someone who's first language is not English.

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gkhan

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#5  Edited By gkhan

By the way, the reason why the g in Proto-Indo-European guga could plausibly have changed into the k in Germanic kuga/kuggo, is something called Grimm's law, named after one of the Brother's Grimm, who weren't just fairy tale collectors, but linguists as well. It's a little bit complicated, but I could explain it in a simple way if you guys are curious enough :)

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Mr_Skeleton

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#6  Edited By Mr_Skeleton

Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a cog as:

1: A tooth on the rim of a wheel or gear.

2: A subordinate but integral person or part.

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gkhan

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#7  Edited By gkhan

@Mr_Skeleton said:

Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a cog as:

1: A tooth on the rim of a wheel or gear.

2: A subordinate but integral person or part.

There are a number of other meanings beside that, including (as I said) as a synonym for "gear" itself, not just as a tooth on it. That's were the second meaning you cited actually comes from, as in the expression "He's a vital cog in the machinery that is this corporation". That only makes sense if we think of the word as meaning "gear". Back in the olden days, "cog" was also a kind of broad-built ship. It could also mean "deception, trickery, fraud" as in modern day con.

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Mr_Skeleton

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#8  Edited By Mr_Skeleton

@gkhan said:

@Mr_Skeleton said:

Merriam-Webster dictionary describes a cog as:

1: A tooth on the rim of a wheel or gear.

2: A subordinate but integral person or part.

There are a number of other meanings beside that, including (as I said) as a synonym for "gear" itself, not just as a tooth on it. That's were the second meaning you cited actually comes from, as in the expression "He's a vital cog in the machinery that is this corporation". That only makes sense if we think of the word as meaning "gear". Back in the olden days, "cog" was also a kind of broad-built ship. It could also mean "deception, trickery, fraud" as in modern day con.

When you use Webster you get what you paied for.

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BeachThunder

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#9  Edited By BeachThunder
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ImmortalSaiyan

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#11  Edited By ImmortalSaiyan
@RaikohBlade said:

You must really love the word "cog," to have devoted so much time into making this thread. Unless of course, all of that information is from your own memory, in which case you are a human data bank.


You know what word I like? Flip. Flip! Flip-a-drippy-kip-flip.
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Milkman

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#12  Edited By Milkman

@dudeglove said:

It's that time folks for when you hear something on the bombcast and start wanking over it on the forums.

Who's "wanking" over anything? It was a topic of discussion on the podcast so that discussion is being brought to the forums.

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Little_Socrates

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#13  Edited By Little_Socrates

I enjoyed this.

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Turambar

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#14  Edited By Turambar

Fact checking will ruin the bombcast.
 
But make more threads like this regardless.

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inkerman

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#15  Edited By inkerman

Yeah, I've been reading up on some proto-Germanic for a book I'm writing, really cool stuff seeing how words have changed.

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Swandre3000

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#16  Edited By Swandre3000

@gkhan: Oh man, you are making me miss my unfettered access to the online OED I had in undergrad... I wonder if I can still get to it through my grad school even though I'm not studying English anymore...

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MrMo

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#17  Edited By MrMo

@gkhan Man oh man, linguists are awesome! Thanks for classing up the place and teaching this Neanderthal here more about the language he frequently abuses.

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TEHMAXXORZ

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#18  Edited By TEHMAXXORZ
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TheLastNeo

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#19  Edited By TheLastNeo

@gkhan: lol...great post!

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Ravenlight

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#20  Edited By Ravenlight

@gkhan: Are you insinuating Minecraft was made by Marcus Fenix?

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Aetheldod

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#21  Edited By Aetheldod

Knowledge is always goo , keep it up I say

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alternate

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#22  Edited By alternate

@RaikohBlade said:

You must really love the word "cog," to have devoted so much time into making this thread. Unless of course, all of that information is from your own memory, in which case you are a human data bank.

That or he knows how to google, CTRL-C, CTRL-V

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BrickRoad

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#23  Edited By BrickRoad

Early English is pretty interesting actually. Like the whole 'Ye' thing. 'Ye' was never pronounced 'Ye', it was just a simpler way of writing/engraving/printing the word Þe, or 'The'. So when you see 'Ye Shoppe' it simply says 'The Shoppe'', and anyone who pronounces it 'Ye' is wrong. Thanks Q.I. Thanqis.