Sometimes a word in some language has a literal or original meaning and then develops an additional (usually figurative) meaning that’s not especially close to the original. And then the word is borrowed into English (or another language) with only the secondary meaning. Which makes the word seem to have a rather unusual origin. Here’s a few examples:
bonanza (Spanish) calm sea or fair weather
eclair (French) lightning
fiasco (Italian) to make a bottle of
strudel (German) whirlpool
Thanks for the contributions. I realize that I forgot something in the OP. I’m especially interested in words that are still in the original language with the same spelling. Although I don’t mind hearing about others words – etymology is generally quite interesting.
This one is slightly misleading. That is, if my French-English dictionary is correct, it means a non-romantic lover, lover of art or sports or something. But still that’s the kind of thing I’m looking for.
The color pink is named after a flower, pinks. And was first used for centuries as a verb, “to pink”, as in to cut fabric in a way that resembles the frilly edge of the flower. Thus the type of scissors called “pinking shears”, a name that always baffled me until this subject came up.
I think the word “escalate” has strange origins. It is a common enough word, used daily in the news and elsewhere. I always thought it had been around forever, and that “escalator” (moving stairways) came from it.
It is the other way around. “Escalator” was thought up out of thin air as the name of the stairs and escalate, meaning “to increase rapidly”, came from the product name.
Ah, yes, that so frequent “the first answer is the right answer” mindset which I hate so much in translations.
From vulgar Latin bonacia, a joke on malacia “dead calm”.
Good weather at sea.
In the “overseas” (colonial) mines, an abundance of mineral.
The English meaning is the third one.
One I encountered recently and which had me jumping on m-w because it made no sense. Apparently, in English playa means “the flat bottom of an undrained desert basin, which sometimes becomes a lake”.
Uh… in Spanish it means beach. It can be a beach at a lake, or at the sea, or on a river; it may be sandy, or pebbly, or rocky, but it’s at the edge of the water. Whether it was a joke or someone thinking that playa means “sandy place” I can’t tell.
mixdenny, wouldn’t escalator come from escalier (stairs), or from escaler (to climb)? Assuming French simply because that tends to be the source of a lot of Romance roots in English.
Just that until you explained a bit more I wasn’t sure what were you looking for.
I’ve never encountered an etymology which didn’t make sense. Sometimes they include misunderstandings or malapropisms, but they always make sense.