Well, Fellow Word Nerds, Leah and I are going to bake bread today, so naturally, I became curious about the origins of the word bread.

     Simple enough: Bread comes from the Old English bread.


Okay, okay. I’ve got more than that. The Old English got it from the Indo-European roots bhreu-/bhereu- “to ferment.” Makes sense, because that, in essence, is what the yeast is all about. The Indo-European base Bher- means “to well up, to seethe” Makes sense again, if you’ve ever stirred some yeast into some warm water and watched it bubble up. This is the gas that will make the bread dough rise.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Brewers use yeast. The word beer must come from the same root!

Nope. Beer comes to us from the Latin for bibere, meaning “to drink,” taking a trip through the German to get to English.

However, the Webster’s New World College Dictionary does take an interesting turn here in the etymology of bread. That Indo-European base word, bher- does lead to our words brew and burn, and to the Latin fervere, meaning "to boil."

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Our word fever should come from the same root as the Latin fervere. And it should. It really should.

But, no. Fever comes from the Latin fovere, “to burn,” which sounds related to fervere, but they actually come from two different Indo-European base words.

Hehe. Just when you think you have a handle on this Word Nerd thing!

This is what makes it so fun!

WORD NERD CHALLENGE FOR THE WEEK: Find English words that come from the the Latin fervere.