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With the lack of a good etymology search engine that I know of I'll ask this here.

In classical music, the trumpet is often used to communicate a sense of victory, glory, or triumph. To my linguistically untrained ear, the words trumpet and triumphant sound uncannily similar. Also, the verb form of trumpet is related, roughly, to the idea of triumph.

Is there some common origin that these two words share, or is it just coincidence?

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3 Answers 3

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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the etymology for trumpet is:

Etymology: < French trompette (14th cent.), dim. < trompe , trump n.1

In addition, EtymOnline adds:

c.1300, from O.Fr. trompette "trumpet," dim. of trompe (see trump (n.2)). The verb is recorded from 1520s; figurative sense of "to proclaim, extol" is attested from 1580s.

The etymology for triumphant, on the other hand, is:

Etymology: < Latin triumphānt-em , present participle of triumphāre to triumph v., or < French †triumphant , triomphant (15th cent.): see -ant suffix.

For this, EtymOnline adds:

late 15c., from L. triumphantem, prp. of triumphare (see triumph).

This does not suggest a direct relation between triumph and triumphant, as the words they can be traced back to differ. Perhaps the French trompette is indeed related to the Latin triumphant (thus giving an older and shared French root), but the OED provides no further history. So, because the two words can be traced back to different French roots, they have different etymologies in English. This does not mean that trompette and triumphant don't share a root in French, but as far as English roots go they are different in this regard.

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Looks like it might be a bit of both. Dictionary.com relates trumpet to trump (second usage: "a trumpet or its sound"), which it traces back to a Germanic root for this instrument - thus presumably unrelated to the Latin triumph.

However, the first definition of trump there ("any playing card that... outranks the other suits") is given as "an unexplained variant of triumph." So it is indeed possible that the "triumphant" meaning of trump had an influence on the "musical instrument" one.

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Seemingly tongue in cheek, perhaps the name derives from French, "trou" and "pet". It would be consistent with the sound and the action. When the instrument was first used, people were not so pretentious, and musicians were certainly more bawdy in general.

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