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Frolic – Podictionary Word of the Day

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The word frolic seems to me forever associated with Newfoundland.

Long before my brother-in-law (a Newfie) even met my sister I heard a comedy skit where Newfoundlanders were rendered as loving to sing and frolic, moving to Ontario and turning into alcoholics.

Woman jumping into air.This depiction was based on the economics of the time when the cod fishery was collapsing and Ontario was the economic engine of Canada.

Now Ontario is becoming the rusting industrial heartland of Canada while Newfoundland is gaining oil and energy aspirations just like Alberta.

Etymologically the word frolic has nothing to do with Newfoundland except perhaps in a sort of metaphorical sense that the economy tends to bounce up and down.

For the word frolic is suspected to go back to a root that relates to jumping up.

Frolic first appeared in English in the 16th century and came from Germanic roots.

The word at first wasn’t a verb but an adjective and meant “joyful.” But it’s suspected that the “joyful” meaning was applied based on an even older root that meant “to jump” as you would when you’re feeling particularly joyful.

Thus the activity and motion that we might associate with frolicking points right back through the meaning of “high spirits” to a leaping source for the etymology.


Five days a week Charles Hodgson produces Podictionary – the podcast for word lovers, Thursday episodes here at OUPblog. He’s also the author of several books including his latest History of Wine Words – An Intoxicating Dictionary of Etymology from the Vineyard, Glass, and Bottle.

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One Response to “Frolic – Podictionary Word of the Day”
  1. Bruce says:

    So, I guess frolic is related to the modern German word froehlich, which means happy.

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