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Why do we refer to the floors of buildings as stories? Example:

I live up on the sixth story.

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From M-W: Middle English storie, from Medieval Latin historia narrative, illustration, story of a building, from Latin, history, tale; probably from narrative friezes on the window level of medieval buildings –  nohat Sep 22 '11 at 18:26
@nohat I voted to reopen as that explanation doesn't satisfy. I've never heard of those narrative friezes before. However, I have also downvoted because the OP should really have included the basic 'research' ie. googling "story etymology" before posting. –  z7sg Ѫ Sep 22 '11 at 19:10
I just learnt BrE storey is story in AmE. –  Hugo Sep 23 '11 at 6:27

1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there has been a fair amount of debate on the exact etymology of the word storey or story. They write the following:

First in Anglo-Latin form historia; hence probably the same word as story n.1, though the development of sense is obscure.

Possibly historia as an architectural term may originally have denoted a tier of painted windows or of sculptures on the front of a building.

The current view that the word is < Old French *estoree ( < estorer to build, furnish: see store v.) is untenable on account of the Anglo-Latin form historia (from 12th cent.).

So story shares a link to historia, but even the OED is unsure how the current sense came about. Nonetheless, story has referred to a level of a building since around 1400.

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