Beyond Words - Language Blog

Valentine’s Day Etymology

The practice of choosing a special person to be one’s valentine on February 14 began in the mid-14th century as an English and French courtly custom. Valentine cards may have originated with Saint Valentine himself, a Roman priest who purportedly continued to perform marriages in secret after they were outlawed by Emperor Claudius II in order to have a larger pool of unmarried men for military service. After Valentine was arrested and imprisoned, he fell in love with a young woman who visited him during his confinement, sending her cards and letters to relay his feelings.

The word love comes to us from the Proto-German lubo and the Gothic liufs, both terms for affection and friendliness, as well as the appellation of a beloved or sweetheart.

Romance began as a 14th-century literary term for a kind of poem that recounted tales of a hero’s adventures. The term comes from the Latin romanice scribere, meaning to write in a Romance language or in the Roman style. Eventually the focus in these tales shifted to the protagonist’s amorous escapades, taking a semantic shift in the territory of love stories.

Originally from the Proto-Germanic kussijanan, this verb came into modern usage from the Old English cyssan.

The name of this flower came into modern usage from the Greek rhodon via Old English.

Introduced in the early 18th-century into English from French, bouquet means ‘little wood’ from a diminutive of the Latin boscus, or ‘grove.’
photo by Mr. Winkles