6

Did it arise from a mixture of chattering and murmuring?

4 Answers 4

2

It seems to come from Yorkshire dialect, with direct meaning of mutter.

Also, to me the connection with 'chant' looks interesting:

chant (v.)
late 14c., from O.Fr. chanter "to sing, celebrate" (12c.), from L. cantare, frequentative of canere "sing," from PIE base *kan- "to sing" (cf. Gk. eikanos "cock," O.E. hana "cock," both lit. "bird who sings for sunrise;" O.Ir. caniaid "sings," Welsh canu "sing"). The frequentative quality of the word was no longer felt in Latin, and by the time French emerged the word had entirely displaced canere. Related: Chanted; chanting. The noun is recorded from 1670s, from Fr., from L. cantus, from pp. stem of canere. — Etymonline

9
  • It's also used in Scotland. My grandparents used it quite often. "What are you chuntering about?" translates as what are you complaining about.
    – user9682
    Jun 27, 2011 at 14:01
  • @osknows, well wikipedia says: "Broad Yorkshire or Tyke. The dialect has roots in older languages such as Old English and Old Norse; it should not be confused with modern slang."; so if not Old Norse then Old English is common root.
    – Unreason
    Jun 27, 2011 at 15:13
  • The OED's third citation (1788) is specifically E. Yorkshire, but the first too (1599 and 1699) are not identifiably connected with Yorkshire (though they might be in text not included).
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 27, 2011 at 17:00
  • 2
    I don't find your suggestion of 'chant' persuasive in either sound (in most of the country the vowels would be very different) or meaning.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 27, 2011 at 17:02
  • And @unreason, the Wikipedia article you refer to does not even mention "chunter" directly: it merely refers to a book which has the word in its title. I agree that this suggests that the authors of the book regarded "chunter" as typically Yorkshire, but really does not amount to a reliable source.
    – Colin Fine
    Jun 27, 2011 at 17:07
1

I would hazard a guess at a modification of chant, which according to Etymonline appeared in the 1600's from the French chanter.

0

The Oxford English Dictionary says "Apparently of imitative formation", and dates it from 1599.

I take it this means imitative of the sound made, rather than being a blend of existing words; but existing words may have had an influence on it.

4
  • 1
    I suspect the OED's "apparently of" may translate to "our wild guess is." Jun 27, 2011 at 14:48
  • The OED uses imitative for quite a few things, not all of which are particularly imitative in nature. There is—to my knowledge, at least—no such thing as an imitative formation of a word. My immediate thought upon seeing chunter is that it’s a blend of chatter and mutter and grunt, all rolled up into one neat package. But then that’s just my ‘apparently of’ guess. Aug 23, 2014 at 20:14
  • @JanusBahsJacquet There is—to my knowledge, at least—no such thing as an imitative formation of a word. Formation (OED) 1. a. The action or process of forming; a putting or coming into form; creation, production. Onomatopoeia?
    – Greybeard
    Apr 17 at 21:18
  • 1
    @Greybeard What I meant (I think – I don’t quite remember writing this comment eight years ago) is that while the resulting word may well be imitative in nature (onomatopoeia, sound symbolism, etc.), I don’t see how its formation, that is, the way in which it is created by derivation, borrowing or other means, can be imitative. I suppose if you deliberately coin a word to sound like it was coined in French, that could be considered an ‘imitative formation’, but that’s about as close as I can get, and that doesn’t seem relevant to chunter. Apr 17 at 21:21
0

According to Dictionary.com, its origin is from:

1590–1600; orig. dial. (Midlands, N England) chunter, chunder, chunner; — Random House

Interesting to know that the Scottish have a similar word "channer". However, the origin of both words were deemed:

probably of imitative origin — Collins

I reckon the origin of the word was a result of onomatopoeia. The way "bow-wow" or "meow" were originated from imitating the sounds of dogs and cats, "chunter" was probably imitating murmuring sounds.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.