[ Etymonline for 'commode (n.)' ]
1786, "chest of drawers," earlier (1680s) name of a type of fashionable ladies' headdress, from French commode, noun use of adjective meaning "convenient, suitable,"
from Latin commodus "proper, fit, appropriate, convenient, satisfactory,"
from com-, intensive prefix (see com-), + modus "measure, manner" (see mode (n.1)). Meaning "chair housing a chamber pot" first attested 1851 from notion of "convenience." ...

I heed the Etymological Fallacy. But what are some right ways of interpreting this etymology, to make it feel reasonable and intuitive?

1. How did com- and modus combine to mean the French 'commode' ?

2. Then how did the French 'commode' narrow into the English 'commode', which inherited fewer meanings?

3. My problem: Etymonline above states that 'commode' undertook the notion of "convenience" only in 1851. So this later acceptation does NOT explain or answer how already in the 1680s, 'commode' already meant 'a type of fashionable ladies' headdress'.

1 Answer 1

  1. In Latin, commodus,-a already had the same adjectival meaning.

  2. In French, commode originally only meant 'easy, convenient'. Later on, the adjective was substantivated to represent the piece of furniture -- which was easy to use. See the CNRS' website 1.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.