fbpx

What is the origin of azure?

Azure derives via Old French from Arabic al-lāzuward, with the initial l- in lāzuward disappearing because of confusion between Arabic and French grammar: a widespread assumption arose that this initial l- was part of the Arabic definite article al- “the” or that it was a Romance definite article such as le in French, il in Italian, or el in Spanish. Either way, Romance language speakers chopped that l- off accordingly, and the new spelling stuck. This process is called metanalysis in linguistics, and a similar misdivision happened in English; because of confusion with the definite articles a and an, words such as apron and umpire lost their initial n-, while words such as newt and nickname gained an initial n- when they originally had none. Lāzuward is a borrowing of Persian lāzhuward “lapis lazuli,” a dark blue stone, after the area in Central Asia where it was mined, perhaps corresponding to a location in Badakhshan, a region split among modern-day Afghanistan, China, and Tajikistan. Azure entered English in the late 1200s or early 1300s.