Funeral Etymology

by J-Touchette
black and white portrait of Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), was the first English writer to use the word ‘funeral’.

Funerals are a common event in modern times, and have been throughout history but how did the word come about?

The word ‘funeral’ first appeared in writing in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale around 1386. In the story, rife with love, strife and ethical dilemmas, Chaucer wrote as the main character dies, “Putte in the fyr of funeral servyse;” and mentioned the word several more times in the story.

The word had come from the Old French word funerailles, but like many French words, draws its roots from Latin. The words ‘funer’ and ‘funus’ are Latin meaning death rites. Those words have their origins in the Indo-European root word ‘dheu’ which means to die.

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