Illegitimi non carborundum

Last night, I was wondering whether “molder,” as in “moldering in the grave” was related to the fungal substance mold. Turns out, the answer is mo. Er…no. There’s an archaic meaning of “mold,” from whence “molder”: decay, as a verb, or loose soft earth, as a noun, from a Germanic base meaning to pulverize or grind, via Old English. The other two molds come through different paths. The fungal one started out as the Danish mugle and came to us via Middle English, through various forms growing increasingly similar to our present-day word. The “form in which a substance is shaped” mold comes ultimately from the Latin module.

But a note in one of the definitions for the molder type of mold caught my eye. The Oxford Dictionary of English mentions that the soft loose earth “mold” is related to meal! I got the shivers. This grinding thing, with m-l in the words, is prolific!! I started looking around in the dictionary. Through those entries and my own knowledge, I produced the following list of related words in English and Spanish. Leave a comment if you can add any more!

English words
meal–ground grain
mill–the grinding mechanism
miller–the guy who grinds
Miller and Mueller–surnames therefrom
molars–your grinding teeth
moline–a certain cross design in heraldry, so named because the shape resembles the iron support of a millstone
mole–a mass in the uterus (medical use of the Latin word mola, millstone)
note: the burrowing animal mole, the spot on your skin mole, the chemistry quantity mole, and the Mexican sauce mole are not related

Spanish words
moler–to grind
moledor–adj., grinding
molinero–adj., milling or vb., miller
moledura–n., grinding/crushing/milling (e.g., of coffee, olive, wheat)
Molina–common surname
muela–molar tooth

Update, 1/9/11–see “immolate” on another post.

About Verla

Wordfreak. Retired private investigator and Spanish court interpreter. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, in New Mexico by choice. Lover of things purple. Passionate participant in the Librivox audiobook recording project. We record books that are in the public domain in the U.S. The recordings are then placed in the public domain themselves.
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