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I was looking up the etymology of the word snooze, and the Etymology Online suggested it was unknown.

1789, cant word, of unknown origin, perhaps echoic of a snore. Related: Snoozed; snoozing. The noun meaning "a short nap" is from 1793. Snooze-alarm is from 1965.

I thought this was odd, because the verb to fall asleep in Czech is usnout, which is very similar. I was wondering if there is a connection via Proto Indo-European, like the connection between the PIE médʰu (honey wine) and the English mead (Honey Wine), the Czech med (honey) or the Iranian mei (wine). Anyone know the PIE reconstruction for sleep or related words?

Is there any connection between snooze and usnout?

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    I very much doubt we got the word from Czech. Maybe it's a "portmanteau" of snore and doze, but that's pure speculation on my part. It goes back to at least 1789, according to the OED - but we didn't come up with snooze buttons on alarms until 1965. – FumbleFingers Apr 16 at 17:34
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    I don't expect that we got it from Czech, but I was wondering if there is a connection via Proto Indo-European, like the connection between the PIE médʰu (honey wine) and the English Mead (Honey Wine), the Czech Med (honey) or the Iranian Mei (wine). Anyone know the PIE reconstruction for sleep or related words? – John H. Apr 16 at 19:03
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    Doing a little bit of research, and find it curious that in Latin Somnus is sleep and Sona in Hindi is also sleep. I can't help but wonder if there is a deeper PIE connection here given the coincidence of the consonants SN in all these words: Sona - Somnus - Snooze - Usnout – John H. Apr 17 at 1:16
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    Etymonline gives swep- as a common Proto-Indo-European root for sleep related words. – S Conroy May 16 at 20:15
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    The pertinant question: Where from did Futurama lift snu-snu? – vectory May 20 at 4:58
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Snooze is of uncertain origin according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "snooze, v.":

apparently a cant or slang word of obscure origin.

The earliest usages establish a general meaning but aren't particularly illuminating for knowing where it comes from.

1789 G. Parker Life's Painter xiv. 130 The cull with whom she snooz'd.

Using Eighteenth Century Collections Online (university subscription), I found several early entries.

The 1753 edition of The discoveries of John Poulter, alias Baxter by J. Poulter include a brief cant lexicon that includes the following:

The Cull is at Snoos ; the Man is at Sleep

In The festival of Momus, a collection of comic songs, including the modern and a variety of originals (1780), this bit appears (p. 69):

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I snooze at the hummums (a Turkish bathhouse) 'till twelve...

Snooze also appears in some other song books. Here's The Town and country songster's companion (1780-1800), p. 37:

All higley pigley, pigs in the straw, / We snooze without thinking of harm, 'Till a signal that goes, / We jump into our cloaths, / And as fine a confusion as ever you saw / Is the midnight false alarm.

By 1795, Humphry Tristram Potter includes snooze in his A new dictionary of all the cant and flash languages, both ancient and modern. While Potter's lexicography involves a lot of plagiarism and unreliability (as Julie Coleman claims in A History of Cant and Slang Dictionaries Volume II), given the evidence above, snooze appears to have persisted in cant and in other lower registers like popular lyric:

SNOOZE, to sleep

It may be related to other sn- nose words (snout, snore) or sleep-related words (doze, drouse, snug), but that's guesswork.

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The Green’s Dictionary of Slang suggests an earlier usage, but adds no details about its origin:

1753 [UK] J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 43: The Cull is at Snoos; The Man is asleep.

In the following interesting extract from Grammarphobia, they notice that a number of English terms related to “nose” are ultimately related to old German “snut”, but still snooze appears to have a misterious origin:

The words “snot,” “snotty,” “snout,” “snoot,” “snooty” (in the sense of looking down one’s nose) and “schnoz” are all related to a similar prehistoric Germanic root associated with the nose, “snut.”

“Snob” is unrelated, and “snooze” is of uncertain origin. But “snitch,” meaning an informer, may be related to a 17th-century word for a fillip on the nose. So there may be a connection there.

  • The instance in Poulter's Discoveries, seventh edition (1754) appears in a glossary titled "An Explanation of the Language of Thieves, Commonly Called Cant," without any elaboration beyond the direct translation: "The Cull is at Snoos ; the Man is at Sleep." – Sven Yargs May 9 at 3:25
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  • According to Wiktionary, 'snooze' can be compared to the Dutch 'snoezelen' (to snooze).
  • Further web searching suggests that the word is also akin to the Low German 'snusen' or Danish 'snuse'.

What this suggests is that 'snooze' most likely came from a variety of words meaning 'sleep' in other languages, making it entirely possible that 'usnout' is a distant relative of 'snooze'.

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