I discovered on a quiz show the other day that the word "dog" appears to have come from nowhere and displaced the German word "hund".

Has any research revealed how it arrived in the English language?

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    Whilst looking up a completely different word, I stumbled upon one of the public entries of the Oxford English Dictionary. About "dog". Here is the link. The etymology section is very informative. Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


The Wiktionary entry for "docga" suggests a possible origin in the root of a word originally meaning "power, strength, muscle" along with a diminutive suffix -ga.

It occurs to me that single-syllable words (or single syllables plus a suffix) can come about onomatopeoiacally. The root "dog"/"doc" doesn't necessarily have had to have come from "somewhere".

If the Wiktionary entry is correct that there is only one known attestation of "docga", it is striking that it became the word that eventually ousted "Hund" (as the generic word). On the other hand, I guess it's possible that "docga" was widely used, just not in the kinds of register that tended to be written down. (It's quite common for words to shift register over the years.)

  • Possible, but I think even the lower registers from the 16th century would be quite well known today. A very strange development in any case! Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 13:34
  • As I understand, it's basically earlier on than that that it's rarely attested. But your point is still valid: we would arguably have expected to find the word readily used by Chaucer, for example. All I can really suggest is that it seems more plausible for us to have patchy coverage of non-standard registers than patchy coverage of what was perceived of as more "fit for writing". (Another complication is that the notion of registers and "standard" almost certainly weren't what they are today.) Commented Mar 15, 2011 at 15:51
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    and @Cerberus, I've looked up both wikipedia and wiktionary for the etymology of dog and I found the wikipedia entry to be more informative, especially regarding the replacement of "hound" by dog. It reminded me of several cases in which a species name as taken over the genus name. For instance, in Brasil they use "cobra" as a generic name for all types of snakes. Commented Mar 17, 2011 at 6:37

I believe the etymology of dog is still unknown. The following is from Etymonline.com:

O.E. docga, a late, rare word used of a powerful breed of canine. It forced out O.E. hund (the general Germanic and IE word; see canine) by 16c. and subsequently was picked up in many continental languages (cf. Fr. dogue (16c.), Dan. dogge), but the origin remains one of the great mysteries of English etymology.

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