Is there a shared etymological root to the following words?

  • Bobech (glass collar on a candle)
  • Bobbin (in a sewing machine)
  • Bobby [pin] (woman's hair pin)

I just learned the word bobech last night, and it made me wonder, simply due to the phonetic similarities.

  • 2
    Unlikely - bobèche is just a current French word (candlestick collar, drip-tray, bracket). Bobbin is from Middle French bobine - hank of thread. They may be connected, but bobby pin is probably just a diminutive "bob" as in "short hair" perhaps of Celtic origin (cf. Ir. baban "tassel, cluster," Gael. babag). – FumbleFingers Nov 24 '12 at 1:09
  • 4
    @FumbleFingers That’s an answer, not a comment. :) – tchrist Nov 24 '12 at 3:21
  • 1
    @tchrist: I've no idea, really. I guessed "unlikely", after a minute or so on Google, but perhaps all three bob's do have something in common. The drip-tray thingy is a bit like a headband for stopping sweat (rather than wax/oil) dripping. And that could relate to a tassel. Which ties hair up in a bun... Let someone else who knows more about it (or can be bothered to do more research) pronounce. – FumbleFingers Nov 24 '12 at 4:01
  • Only if you found anything beyond "the phonetic similarities" and more promising can we suspect anything. Else it is a frivolous pursuit. – Kris Nov 24 '12 at 4:32
  • Fumblefingers you are... bashful! adorable and rare quality. – Jelila Aug 14 '19 at 17:27

No, they don't have a shared root.


Of bobbin (in a sewing machine), the Online Etymology Dictionary says:

1520s, from Fr. bobine, small instrument used in sewing or tapestry-making, perhaps from L. balbus (see babble) for the stuttering, stammering noise it made.

bobby [pin]

Of bobby [pin] (a woman's hair pin), the Online Etymology Dictionary says:

1928, from dim. of bob (2) + pin (n.).

Where bob (2) is:

"short hair," 1680s, attested 1570s in sense of "a horse's tail cut short," from earlier bobbe "cluster" (as of leaves), mid-14c., a northern word, perhaps of Celtic origin (cf. Ir. baban "tassel, cluster," Gael. babag). Used over the years in various senses connected by the notion of "round, hanging mass," e.g. the meaning "weight at the end of a line" (1650s). The hair sense was revived with a shift in women's styles early 20c. (verb 1918, noun 1920). Related words include bobby pin, bobby sox, bobsled, bobcat.


Neither bobech or bobeche are in the Online Etymology Dictionary or Oxford English Dictionary, but Wordnik says bobeche (with an -e) (a glass collar on a candle) is from the French bobèche.

| improve this answer | |
  • Interesting. So bobby pin is actually - it sounds like - related to the bob on a fishing line, too. I'll definitely be bookmarking that Etym. Dict. link, thanks! – eidylon Nov 26 '12 at 18:01

I know this question was asked and answered many moons ago, but I also was curious as to the word origin of bobeche (not just that it's borrowed from the French word meaning the same thing).

After some fruitless digging (and in the process stumbling across this question), I located one source that suspects that bobbin may also be etymologically related. I wonder if @eidylon was editing dictionary.com. :-)

ORIGIN OF BOBÈCHE 1895–1900; < French, of uncertain origin; bob- perhaps akin to the base of bobine bobbin

| improve this answer | |

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.