word origin

What is the origin of the word fart?

fart [oe] Fart is a widespread and ancient word in the Indo-European languages, and goes back to a pre-historic Indo-European **perd-*, which may originally have been an imitation of the sound of a fart. Its other offspring besides fart include German farzen and furzen, Swedish fjarta, Danish fjerte, Russian perdet’, Polish pierdziec, Greek pordizo, and Welsh rhechain.
Dictionary of Word Origins, John Ayto.

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I believe, from a long-ago Shakespeare class, that the word “petard” (a primitive type of grenade) is cognate to the word “fart.”

You can just imagine some 15th century engineer thinking, “Well, it makes a big noise, it smells, so we’ll call it a …”

and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel to toe

IIRC, Chaucer used the word, spelled the same way, in “The Miller’s Tale.”

From The Miller’s Tale:

I can’t frind any connection with petard other than the the French verb, to fart, is péter

And that is the connection: Petard in French was the name for a small explosive charge; it roughly meant “little fart.” The word came into English as the name of the explosive.

“East is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.” – Marx

Read “Sundials” in the new issue of Aboriginal Science Fiction. www.sff.net/people/rothman

Cecil wrote a column about the turn of the century French, uh, performing artist who specialized in farting. Mel Brooks fans will recognize the name – “Le Petomaine” (I’m unsure of the spelling).

I’ll see if I can find something in the archives. IIRC, it was in his (Cecil’s) first book.

“To do her justice, I can’t see that she could have found anything nastier to say if she’d thought it out with both hands for a fortnight.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
Busman’s Honeymoon

Here’s the column I was thinking of:


A search of the archives for the word “fart” turned up a couple of dozen hits.