fbpx

What is the origin of auriferous?

Auriferous “yielding or containing gold” is based on Latin aurifer “gold-bearing” and the adjectival suffix -ous “full of, containing.” Aurifer is a compound of aurum “gold” and the suffix -fer “bearer,” from the verb ferre “to bear, carry.” As we learned from the recent Word of the Day aureate, aurum is of uncertain origin but may be related to Latin aes “brass, bronze, copper” or aurōra “dawn.” Ferre comes from the Proto-Indo-European root bher-, of the same meaning, which is also the root of Ancient Greek phérein “to carry,” the source of euphoria, metaphor, and phosphorus. The root bher- is also behind the English verb bear; because of Grimm’s law, which changes stop consonants in Germanic languages such as English, German, and Swedish, the Proto-Indo-European sounds bh, dh, and gh—in which the h indicates aspiration, a “puff of air” sound—often become b, d, and g in English. Auriferous was first recorded in English in the 1720s.