I know, I know–you probably see my word of the week and wonder, “Why in the world is she talking about shacks?” Well see . . . um . . . LOL. Mostly because I needed to describe some ramshackle dwellings in my book a few weeks ago and was surprised to learn how very new the word shack is. And upon looking a little further, the newness gets even more interesting.
What www.etymonline.com knows is that the word “shack” appeared in American and Canadian English in 1878. But its origins are mysterious. One quoted possibility is that it’s an Americanization of the Mexican-Spanish jacal, from Nahuatl xacall. But that’s pretty much just a guess. Another possibility is that it’s one of those fun back-formations, either of “shackly” (shaky, rickety-1843) or of “ramshackle,” which is from 1830.

I’m always intrigued by words that are back-formations. So often language starts with the words for things, with nouns, and then adjectives come of them. I love finding words that began as adjectives and then got turned into nouns.

And for reference, the only word accurate to 1780 I could find for the idea of “shack” is hovel. Which got a little redundant when describing a whole village of them, LOL. So if anyone knows of any words of similar meaning, let me know! 😉
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