Etymology Of The Day -Brooding/broody​: Pensive

Brooding / Broody: Two different words with different meanings, yet they both rest upon a common part – ‘brood’ how did these two come to be, and are they connected?

Broody means to be ready to have children, it has its roots in the middle English verb ‘broodi’ which was first seen in around 1510 and used to refer to chickens. It was in 1851 when the word began to be applied to humans too.

Brooding means to be in deep thought about something which makes one sad, angry or worried. It does indeed also have its roots in the word ‘brood’, It first began being used in this way, a little later, in 1873.

The word ‘brood’ in this sense, comes from the early germanic word ‘brod’ meaning ‘that which is hatched by heat’, this is a corruption of the old german ‘bro’ meaning to heat, this itself from the proto-Indo-European word ‘bhre; which meant simply ‘heat’ and is also the source of the word ‘brew’.


Why in 1873 the word was taken to mean pensive, is not clear but certainly, in this chicken and egg story, we know that broody came first. Perhaps the link is the uncontrollable thoughts that seem to come from deep within and take over.

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