Thursday, 17 July 2014

Criss-Cross - A Christly Etymology

Criss-crossed palm leaves
(photo by Neeraj Elkunchwar)

CRISS-CROSS

Noun, adjective, & adverb. Also crisscross. Early 17th century.
[Reduced from CHRIST-CROSS, latterly treated as reduplication of CROSS noun.]

A1 noun. CHRIST-CROSS. Now archaic & dialectical except Historical. E17

A2 noun. A crossing of lines, currents, etc; a network of crossing lines. L19

A3 noun. The state of being at cross purposes. E20

B adj. In crossing lines; marked by crossings or intersections. M19

C adv. Crosswise; at cross purposes. L19

Here's an everyday word whose origin might surprise you: criss-cross, which comes from Christ's cross. Its origin is in the convention of putting the mark of a cross before the first letter of the alphabet in children's hornbooks. This mark was called Christ's cross, and eventually the 'Christ' part was treated as a reduplication of 'cross' and the pronunciation of Christ changed to criss, just as happened with Christmas. However, unlike Christmas, the spelling of criss-cross evolved to reflect this change in pronunciation. 

A hornbook showing Christ's cross, the alphabet, and the Lord's prayer
An abecedarian's hornbook, showing the Christ's cross top left
(photo by Chris Devers)
Do please leave your crossest comments in the box below.

2 comments:

  1. And this is why the alphabet was called the criss-cross row.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A2 is more simply described as a grid.

    ReplyDelete