Originally Published September 2019

Surf began its life as a noun meaning “waves coming ashore” in about 1680, though it was quite likely a variation on suffe, from the 1590s. Where did it come from? No one’s quite sure. But it was originally used to describe the coast of India, so speculation points to it being borrowed from an Indic word. It could also be a variation of sough, which means “a rushing sound,” which is an Old English word.

The verb meaning “to ride the crest of a wave” dates from 1917. Surfing as an activity and surfer both date from 1955. And of course, the internet usage is first recorded from 1993.

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