testing, n.

test, n. the act of trying for proof

I’ve been testing IFTTT applets to transfer my Instagram posts to WordPress and the process has been testing me. But we’re there now and so while on the topic:


The original test is from the late 14th century and referred to a small vessel used in assaying precious metals. It came to us via Old French’s test (a pot) becoming Modern French’s têt (a cupel – the assaying vessel) from the Latin testum (earthen pot).
And due to some Old French confusion between their test and teste in the 15th & 16th centuries, it’s also related to Latin’s testa (piece of burned clay, earthen pot, shell).

Test, in the sense of trial or examination to determine general quality or correctness was first recorded in The Unfortunate Traveller by Thomas Nashe (1594). Using wordplay on the assay connection, the protagonist Jack Wilton describes his desire to procure the services of a prostitute – who happens to lodge with a goldsmith.

There was a delicate wench named Flavia Aemilia, lodging in Saint Mark’s street at a goldsmiths’, which I would fain have had to the grand test, to try whether she were cunning in alchemy or no.

Unbeknownst to Jack, the gold coin he sent ahead to pay Flavia with was a counterfeit and the test applied did not end well for our ‘hero’.


Test, as a verb, in the gist of this post title emerged a few hundred years later in the mid 18th century, initially in the derivative – tested, adj.
In the tragic novel Clarissa, the eponymous heroine runs away with Robert Lovelace to escape a forced marriage with another. Once again it does not end well for the protagonist; demonstrated below by Robert the Reprobate’s comments about Clarissa:

How unequal is a modest woman to the adventure, when she throws herself into the power of a rake! Punctilio will, at any time, stand for reason with such an one. She cannot break through a well-tested modesty. None but the impudent little rogues, who can name the parson and the church before you think of either, and undress and go to bed before you the next hour, should think of running away with a man.


Bad things happen to the characters novels are named after.

Sources: as linked above, Online Etymology Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary.

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