Word for Wednesday: Peony

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for August is flowers

The word flower entered English around 1200 as ‘flour’ (with spelling variants including ‘flur’, ‘flor’, ‘floer’, ‘flor’, ‘floyer’, and ‘flowre’). It comes from the Old French ‘flor’, from the Latin ‘florem’. The word was used in reference to both blooms and grain until the late fourteenth century, after which the spellings ‘flower’ and ‘flour’ were used to differentiate between the two. 

So far we’ve looked at the words daisytulip, and carnation—our final flower-themed word is peony.

Peonies are widely cultivated for their showy single or double flowers, which are usually red, pink, or white. 

The modern spelling of the word dates to the sixteenth century—it comes from the Middle English word ‘pyony’ which is a blend of the Old English word ‘peonie’ and the Old North French word ‘pione’. Both ‘peonie’ and ‘pione’ come from the Late Latin ‘peonia’ which comes from the Latin ‘pæonia’. ‘Pæonia’ comes from the Greek ‘paionia’. 

Peonies were known for their ability to heal ailments and their roots, flowers, and seeds were used to make medicines. It is possible that the Greek ‘paionia’ was named for Paiōn, the physician to the gods in Greek mythology. 

26 Aug 2020
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