I'm trying to understand both the etymology of 'scorn', (which derives from) that of the Old French 'escarn'. So I'm trying to understand both.

[Etymonline for 'scorn (n.)' :] c. 1200, a shortening of Old French escarn "mockery, derision, contempt," a common Romanic word ...

... Probably influenced by Old French escorne "affront, disgrace," which is a back-formation from escorner, literally "to break off (someone's) horns,"
from Vulgar Latin * excornare (source of Italian scornare "treat with contempt"),
from Latin ex- "without" (see ex-) + cornu "horn" (see horn (n.)).

Please help me dig deeper than the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy, but what are some right ways of interpreting of the etymology, to make it feel reasonable and intuitive?


Look at their definition for the verbal form:

...Old French escorner "deprive of horns," hence "deprive of honor or ornament, disgrace."

Horns can be used as a metaphor for honor or glory, as in the biblical "the horns of the wicked... the horns of the righteous" (Psalms 75:10).

  • 1
    They are also the symbol of a ram or bull, and thus are marks of masculinity and fecundity. Breaking off a man's horn (or, alternatively -- but synonymously -- putting horns on him) means making a cuckold of him, and that's the most likely source of the disgrace and mockery referred to in the definitions. – jlawler Apr 23 '15 at 14:19
  • @jlawler I confirm the value of your comment, which has helped me. – NNOX Apps May 2 '15 at 17:46
  • I didn't know about this metaphorical meaning of 'horns'. If anyone's interested, see classic.net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=HORN : The word "horn" is often used metaphorically to signify strength and honor, because horns are the chief weapons and ornaments of the animals which possess them; hence they are also used as a type of victory. – NNOX Apps May 2 '15 at 17:46

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