Those of you who have been reading these posts for the entire eight years I’ve been writing them weekly may (or may not) remember the third word I featured: handsome. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of those early entries and remind myself of their etymologies!

So today, handsome.

This is one that has meant its current meaning long enough that I never have to wonder if I can use it in a manuscript. Still, it got its start elsewhere–just a looooong time ago. Let’s break down the word. “Hand” and
“some.” Now how in the world did that come to mean “good looking”??
Well, first it meant “ready at
hand or easy to handle” in the 1400s. Literally hand + some. By the
mid/late 1500s the meaning had been extended to mean “considerable, of
fair size.” And then within ten years, that became “of fine form,” which
easily becomes “good-looking.” Then it extended further to mean
“generous” (i.e. a handsome reward) a hundred years after that, in 1680.
A fairly significant change in 280 years, especially when you consider that it hasn’t changed any more since!

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