Category Archives: Musings

Möbel, mobilier, muebles, meubilair, möbler… furniture?

As I was shelving books today, I thought for the 1,000th time about the similarities between European languages for the word “furniture.”  The title’s language order is: German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, and (obviously) English.  How did English-speakers come up with such a fantastically different word for the same thing?  I turned to the Online Etymology Dictionary (http://www.etymonline.com) for answers.

1520s, “act of furnishing,” from M.Fr. fourniture, from fournir “furnish”. Sense of “chairs, tables, etc.; household stuff” (1570s) is unique to English; most other European languages derive their words for this from L. mobile “movable.”

Of course, that still didn’t tell me how this came to be.  Further Googling didn’t help my cause.  I’ll keep searching for answers, of course, unless any of you super-sleuthy commenters can come up with it first!