hansom, n

hansom, n. a low-hung, two-wheeled, covered vehicle drawn by one horse, for two passengers, with the driver being mounted on an elevated seat behind and the reins running over the roof.

Hello Hansom. And helloooooo weekend!

The forerunner of today’s taxicabs, hansom was short for hansom-cabBut before meeting up with his hansom sidekick, cab was getting around solo as the abbreviation of cabriolet (1763) borrowed directly from French’s cabriolet (also 1700’s).

With characteristic springy suspension the cabriolet was a French-designed, one-horse, two-wheeled vehicle driven by a seated occupant from within the carriage. The English cab patented by Joseph Hansom in 1834, placed the driver up at the back of the vehicle allowing for two passengers inside.

Hansom’s version quickly became the preferred vehicle for hire, replacing the larger and more cumbersome, four-wheeled hackney coaches in London before gaining traction further afield.

The French cabriolet was a diminutive from 16th C/17th C cabrioler (to leap, caper). And cabrioler had traveled via Italian capriolare (to jump in the air) from capriola (specifically the leap of a kid) and before that, the Latin capreolus (wild goat roebuck) from the PIE *kap-ro (he-goat, buck).

Over time cab applied more generally to all horse carriages available for public hire. It was extended to similar looking parts of locomotives (1851) and then to automobiles-for-hire (1899) when these began to replace the horse drawn vehicles.

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