Wordy Wednesday: Ferretería.

Speciality shops in Spain generally have titles that end in the suffix “-ería”. For example: “panadería”, a shop that sells bread (“pan”), or “papelería”, a shop that sells paper (“papel”) products. If you want to sell something in Spain just take the name of the product, add “-ería”, get yourself a sign made and you have your own niche market. When I first saw shops labelled “Ferretería” my first instinct was to cut it straight down to the English word “ferret” and assume that ferrets were very popular pets in Spain and consequently that there were numerous speciality stores selling them. I thought this was unlikely however, and decided that perhaps it was the word for a general pet store.

When I finally got around to looking it up I discovered that a “ferretería” is a hardware store or an ironmongers (although I don’t think those really exist anymore.) It is from the Latin root “ferrum”, meaning iron (which is where we get the “Fe” symbol for iron in the Periodic Table) and, disappointingly, has nothing to do with ferrets.

Now the question is, why in English do we use a word with a Latin root meaning iron as the name of a small, furry creature?



Filed under Wordy Wednesday

6 responses to “Wordy Wednesday: Ferretería.

  1. Beryl

    Very interesting, Ally. Do you have the answer? Just in case, have sent off your question to the ABC’s Can We Help’s wordsmith, Kate Burridge. No guarantee of a reply, of course, but she just might find it interesting enough.

  2. sharon cadman

    Yes i agree with Beryl. an answer would be great.

  3. HAC

    I quite like the idea of ferret shops. However, according to Wiktionary, ferret has a different root from the Latin for iron:
    Middle English furet, ferret, from Anglo-Norman firet, furet, diminutive of Old French fuiron (“weasel, ferret”), from Late Latin furo (“cat; robber”), diminutive of Latin fur (“thief”).

  4. Emily

    Oh, I got excited when I thought it was a ferret store and was already planning to pack up shop, move to Spain and open my own Llamaeria… then I read the second paragraph..

  5. thisblonde

    I do love the -erias. So much that I started an album for them. The best so far has got to be: “penintenciaria” as written on a confessional in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Although my personal favorite is “gelateria” for obvious reasons 🙂

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