Thursday, October 06, 2005


Crony and Crone

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, crony is Cambridge student slang, appeared first in 1665, and probably comes from Greek chronios (long-lasting), itself from chronos (time). It is easier to see the root chronos in chronic, chronology, chronometer, etc.

Webster's unabridged dictionary (1913) gives two definitions of crony:
  1. A crone. [Obs.]
  2. An intimate companion; a familiar friend. [Colloq.]
Bush's Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers obviously fits the second definition, but she seems remarkably well preserved for her age, so I would hesitate to apply the first definition to her.

I would have thought that crony (old friend) and crone (old woman) were etymologically related, but the Online Etymology Dictionary, s.v. crone, says:
c.1386, from Anglo-Fr. carogne, from O.N.Fr., term of abuse for a cantankerous or withered woman, lit. "carrion," from V.L. *caronia.
I wonder what the Oxford English Dictionary has to say about the origins of these two words.

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