Saturday, October 08, 2005


Crony and Crone Again

This follows up an earlier discussion of crony and crone. I am grateful to Professor Roger Kuin, who kindly supplied me with the Oxford English Dictionary's entries for these words. The OED does not commit to the derivation of crony from Greek chronios, saying only:
Found first after 1660. According to Skinner 1671 'vox academica', i.e. a term of university or college slang. No connexion with crone has been traced.
But the spelling of the OED's first citation (from Pepys' Diary, May 30, 1665) tends to support the Greek origin:
Jack Cole, my old school-fellow..who was a great chrony of mine.
Here is the OED's etymology of crone:
In the sense 'old ewe' the word appears to be related to early mod.Du. kronje, karonje, 'adasia, ouis vetula, rejecula' (Kilian), believed to be the same word as karonje, kronje, MDu. caroonje, croonje carcass, a. NFr. carogne carcass: see CARRION. As applied to a woman, it may be an Eng. transferred application of 'old ewe' (though the evidence for the latter does not yet carry it back so early); but it was more probably taken directly from ONF. carogne (Picard carone, Walloon coronie) 'a cantankerous or mischievous woman’, cited by Littré from 14th c. App. rare in the 18th c., till revived by Southey, Scott, and their contemporaries.
The OED's first citation of crone is from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, around 1386 (Man of Law's Tale, line 432).

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