Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I recently looked up the origin of "mooch", and the root of the word is apparently very, very old:

Whatever the distant origin of mooch, the verb *mycan and its cognates have been part of European slang for at least two millennia. [Liberman]

Are there other known words with origins this old? What current word has the oldest origins?

EDIT: I should specify that I mean traceable origins. I'm sure there was some word for "fish" being used since the dawn of language. I am not a professional, so I do not know the terms for this, but I imagine there's some form of measurement for the strength of links.

share|improve this question

closed as not a real question by KitFox, Mehper C. Palavuzlar, Mitch, Alain Pannetier Φ, Robusto Jul 22 '11 at 14:03

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Do you mean words that are purely English, or are words borrowed from other languages fair game? –  Patrick87 Jul 22 '11 at 13:54
This is not really answerable. English didn't just pop into existence on a particular date. All words come from somewhere, and for most we can judge pretty well if they were borrowed more recently. In English there is a large core of Germanic words that were not borrowed more recently from contact with other Germanic languages (Old Norse, say). So there's not just one. Look at the number words; which is oldest? You just can't say. –  Mitch Jul 22 '11 at 14:05
@user8809: This question is impossible to answer, because we have inherited many words from Prehistoric times: about our oldest words, we have no idea at all how old they are, except that they are older than a certain date, say, 5000 years ago. Proto-Indo-European is the reconstructed language from which we have inherited and (indirectly) borrowed most of our words. Our language has developed from this in the course of millennia. –  Cerberus Jul 22 '11 at 14:08
Perhaps not so impossible to answer, after all: news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7911645.stm –  Marthaª Jul 22 '11 at 20:42

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.