Word for Wednesday: Bumblebee

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for May is onomatopoeia

An onomatopoeic word imitates the sound of the action or thing it describes.

Onomatopoeic words are often used to describe animal sounds (chirp, hiss, meow, oink, squeak, etc), collisions (crash, bang, wallop, etc.); voice-related sounds (grunt, giggle, guffaw, rasp, wheeze, etc.); and water-related sounds (drip, gush, trickle, pitter-patter, etc.).

Our first word of the month is bumblebee. While the obvious onomatopoeic word associated with a bumblebee is ‘buzz’, the name of the creature itself is onomatopoeic too. 

Bumblebee dates back to the 1520s and replaced the Middle English ‘humbul-be’. Both bumble and ‘humbul’ imitate the humming, buzzing sound a bumblebee makes. It is possible that ‘humbul’ became bumble due to an association with the Middle English ‘bombeln’ meaning ‘to boom or buzz’. The word bee comes from the Old English ‘beo’. 

Another dialect word for the bumblebee was ‘dumbledore’, which came from the onamatapoeic ‘dumble’ and the Middle English ‘dorre’ meaning ‘buzzing or whirring insect’. ‘Dorre’ comes from the Old English ‘dora’.

05 May 2021
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