I would guess that this word is derived from waste (english) + weir (german)? Can anyone provide a more definitive derivation explanation? (couldn't find anything via etymonline.com) Will keep googling for more info and update if I find anything interesting.

  • 2
    I believe 'weir' is also an English word. – Jamie May 24 '11 at 4:15
  • ya, I was just totally guessing. :) – Mr_CryptoPrime May 24 '11 at 4:17
  • Nice guess, the word 'weir' looks really weird. – Jamie May 24 '11 at 4:24

Here are the etymologies:

"waste" is a derivative from the Latin word vāstus.

"Weir" comes from the Old English word wer, to dam up. Wer in turns come from the German word Wehr.

So actually its "waste"(Latin) + "weir"(German)

  • The sources I have looked at indicate that "weir" is not from German "Wehr." Instead, the two words are cognate: both of them descend from a common ancestor in the older language from which both English and German are descended. – herisson Sep 11 '16 at 19:18

I just had to split up the terms and search for them individually:


c.1200, "desolate regions," from O.Fr. wast, from L. vastum, neut. of vastus "waste" (see waste (v.)); replacing O.E. westen, woesten "a desert, wilderness," from the Latin word. Meaning "useless expenditure" is recorded from c.1300; sense of "refuse matter" is attested from early 15c. Waste basket first recorded 1850. Waste-paper first recorded 1580s.


O.E. wer "dam, fence, enclosure," especially one for catching fish (related to werian "dam up"), from P.Gmc. *warjanan (cf. O.N. ver, O.Fris., M.Du. were, Du. weer, O.H.G. wari, Ger. Wehr "defense, protection," Goth. warjan "to defend, protect"), from PIE *wer- "to cover, shut" (cf. Skt. vatah "enclosure," vrnoti "covers, wraps, shuts;" Lith. uzveriu "to shut, to close;" O.Pers. *pari-varaka "protective;" L. (op)erire "to cover;" O.C.S. vora "sealed, closed," vreti "shut;" O.Ir. feronn "field," prop. "enclosed land")

So you were right Jamie, weir is primarily from Old English, but as you can see from the lengthy etymology, it also may have been derived from proto-Germanic, Latin, Sanskrit, Old Persian and number of other languages.

  • 1
    FWIW, the word ‘waste-weir’ is mentioned in the OED under ‘waste’. It doesn't provide any etymology, but provides three citations, dated 1793, 1840, and 1868 respectively: 1. R. Mylne Rep. Thames “There was Seven Inches of Water running over at the Waste Weir at Boulter's Old Lock” 2. H. S. Tanner Canals & Rail Roads U.S. 264 “Waste weir, a water guage; a cut at the side of a canal by which the surplus water of canals is carried off”. 3. Chamb. Encycl. X. 516/2 “There is also the waste-weir, for the purpose of preventing a reservoir embankment being overtopped by floods”. – user3286 May 24 '11 at 6:03

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