I like the word meld, because it sounds basic and hard-working and makes me think of blacksmiths forging swords and armor. Another reason to like it I just discovered: it’s a mystery word; etymologists have not uncovered its origins. We know it was around by 1910. It might come from Canasta, in which a player can “meld” certain combinations of cards for a score. This sense of the word is derived from the German melden, “to make known, announce”, going back to the Proto-Germanic attested in the Old English meldian: “to declare, tell, display, proclaim”. Or meld might be a past participle of the word mell, of which I’ve never heard before today.
What does mell mean, then? It is a verb we received from the Old French way back as far as A.D. 1300, meaning “to mix, meddle”. Aha! I have heard it! But only in the compound: pell-mell, “confusedly”.
This brings us to meddle, another word I’m fond of. It is said to come from the same Old French, who received their word from the Latin, miscere, still meaning “to mix.”
Though they sound much the same when speaking these days, meddle doesn’t have too much to do with metal, and it’s too bad, given my unfounded association of blacksmiths with the word meld (which may or may not have anything really to do with meddle). Metal is English’s inheritance of Latin’s borrowing from the Greek metallon, used to refer to ore, but originally applied only as a verb “to mine, to quarry.” Etymonline.com says that though the origin of that Greek word is unknown, there is evidence to suggest its relation to metallan, “to seek after.”
Medley does have to do with meddle, however. Surprisingly, this word made its debut in English referring to a “hand-to-hand” combat, waiting 150 years before it took on the meaning of “mixture, combination” and then another 150 years or so before being applied to music.
Melody was hanging out in the French language, thence visiting English at about the same time that medley meant “combat.” Melody has always had to do with music, though. It came from the Greek melos, which has two roots seen in melisma (from a Proto-Indo-European root meaning “a limb”??) and ode.
Mellow can refer to music in the vernacular of the 21st century, but it actually began by referring to the characteristics of ripe fruit: “soft, sweet, juicy.” It may have come from mele, “ground grain”, the root of meal, and been influenced by the Old English mearu, “soft, tender.” Beginning in the 1680’s (less at present), mellow has described someone “slightly drunk.”
This brings to mind the words mead and meadow, but they received their own article in 2007, so I’ll simply refer you there: http://ladyoflongbourn.blogspot.com/2007/04/mead.html
Before I close I would like to visit two other words that are similar (by reason of sharing all the same consonants) to meld:
Mold may be the most interesting, because it is the same word now, but its diverse definitions have had parallel (never-touching) evolutions.
Mold meaning “hollow shape” from which we get the verb meaning “to knead, shape, mix, blend” has been part of the English vocabulary since A.D. 1200, originally “fashion, form; nature, native constitution, character”. This came via the French from the Latin modulum “measure, model” from the same root as mode.
Mold referring to the “furry fungus” is sometimes, especially outside of America, spelled mould, from moulen in the Old English related to the Old Norse mygla. It is possible that these words derived from the Proto-Germanic root *(s)muk- and the Proto-Indo-European *meug- (found in the word mucus). Or, it may come to us from the third definition of mold:
Mold, archaically, means “loose earth”. In Old English molde meant “earth, sand, dust, soil, land, country, world”. It is Proto-Germanic, attested in Old Frisian, Old Norse, Middle Dutch, Dutch, Old High German, Gothic. Etymonline.com suggests that it also comes ultimately from a Proto-Indo-European root *mele- “to rub, grind” (as, once again, the word meal). It is strange to me, given the similar sounds, but apparently this word has no common etymology with molt.
Middle is my final word for today, and I appreciate that it comes into this essay after the Old English word, molde, “earth”, because Tolkien paired middle and earth as the name of his fantasy world. (I have absolutely no evidence, but I wonder if Tolkien thought there was some relation?) Middel is the Old English form, from Proto-Germanic root *medjaz directly bringing us mid, “with, in conjunction with, in company with, together with, among” probably from the Proto-Indo-European *medhyo once more meaning “middle.”
(my source is http://www.Etymonline.com)
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn