mot, n.

mot, n. a pithy or witty saying.


Better known as bon mot, it is such a good word. Literally -because we acquired it in the late 1700’s from the French word for word. Those pithy French had been using mot since the 12th Century to mean “remark” or “short speech”.

Mot is clearly more and less than its Latin origin of muttum, a Vulgar form of muttire (to mutter, mumble or murmur). And yes, mot is related to motto (a short expression of the guiding principle of a person, organisation etc).  Italian motto visited English around 1580 and we insisted he never leave, initially using motto to mean “words attached to a heraldic design” before expanding his role in the English tongue.

The Italian motto also changed over time from “short sententious phrase” in 1294 to “clever saying” (1321) to “poetic composition” (still in 1300’s)  to “word” like the French mot (around 1794).

So no great surprise then that mot is the word I picked for a writerly friend for her birthday. Happy Cakeday Narelle 🍰  Keep up the good words and the bon mots!

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