I encountered Merriam-Webster's article on cache vs cachet (while researching another word).
I understand it and other websites that broach the confusion caused by these two nouns,
but none explain the process behind the dichotomy: How did the French verb « cacher » bifurcate into these two different nouns with different meanings?

Footnote: The French verb « cacher » (in modern 2015 French) appears to match the definitions of only cache. Etymonline on cachet cites the Old French dialectal cacher. Does this help?

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    If cachet means a seal on an official document I would imagine that the seal is hiding what's inside from public view.
    – Jim
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 4:06
  • I'm familiar with cachet in two pronunciations: (a) /'kætʃət/ meaning social mana or rank (which I would mark as UK speech), and (b) /kə'ʃe/ or /kæʃe/, which means either the same thing as (a), or a small aromatic bag of persistent herbs like lavender, carried on a lady's person or in her purse or trunk to provide pleasant odors for refreshment. The pseudo-french name for the lavender bag is, I think, typical of Victorian delicacy, like commode or toilet; any subject in bad odor got a French euphemism, to prevent lowerclass laughter. Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 18:08
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    These are two different French words, which come from two different meanings of the French verb cacher. In French, une cache is a hiding place, while un cachet is a seal of the kind you press into hot wax. They both come from the old French verb escachier which meant something like to press together, which is what you do both when hiding something in a small place, and putting a wax seal on an envelope. Commented May 19, 2015 at 3:47
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    Or maybe cacher (to hide) comes from escachier from the idea of putting something under something else ... since escachier also could mean something like "to crush beneath a heavy object" (and is the derivation of the English word squash). Commented May 19, 2015 at 4:05

1 Answer 1


Your own source gives a pretty complete answer:

cachet (n.) 1630s, Scottish borrowing of French cachet "seal affixed to a letter or document" (16c.), from Old French dialectal cacher "to press, crowd," from Latin coactare "constrain" (see cache). Meaning evolving through "(letter under) personal stamp (of the king)" to "prestige." Compare French lettre de cachet "letter under seal of the king."

This indicates that there was an Old French dialectical meaning of cacher as "to press", which evolved into the Modern French word cachet, meaning "a seal affixed to a letter", which was then borrowed in 16th century Scottish with the same meaning.

The entry on cache:

cache (n.) 1797, "hiding place," from French Canadian trappers' slang, "hiding place for stores" (1660s), a back-formation from French cacher "to hide, conceal" (13c., Old French cachier), from Vulgar Latin *coacticare "store up, collect, compress," frequentative of Latin coactare "constrain," from coactus, past participle of cogere "to collect" (see cogent). Sense extended by 1830s to "anything stored in a hiding place."

Shows the English cache originating from a French-Canadian back-formation from the French verb cacher to the noun cache, meaning "a hiding place for stores".

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