This week’s Word is another special request from Lynne F.
~ Remember that any time you have one you’d like me to look up, just let me know! ~
Nun dates back to the very beginnings of English, all the way to the days of Old English, when it was spelled nunne. Its meanings were all within a similar refrain (a woman devoted to a religious life), but I was a bit surprised to realize that it was used both for those in the church and for pagan priestesses.
Interestingly, it derived from the Latin nonna, which is a word given by children to elderly people (and is still the Italian word for “grandmother”). Though the sources I found didn’t explain why this was also attached to someone of the religious order, I’m guessing it’s because of the respect one would give such a person, similar to what would give one’s elders/grandparents.
It’s also interesting to note that languages from around the globe have a word similar to nonna for “grandmother” or “aunt” (a nurturing female other than one’s mother, basically) – there’s nona in Sanskrit, nana in Persian, nanna in Greek, nena in Serbo-Croatian, the aforementioned Italian nonna, and nain in Welsh.
So to ask a question that diverges a bit from the word itself but echoes what it derives from…what do you call your grandmother?