Monday, 26 September 2016

Hengist and his horse

One of my all-time favourite books is '1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England', by W C Sellar.

It was indeed memorable for me, because more than a few of the dates and names stuck in my head and gave me a jolt of joy later in life when I studied history. Many a dry lecture was enlivened for me by a passing reference to Sellar's Important Dates and People.

My absolutely favourite quote is this one, about Hengist and his wife (or horse?) Horsa.

Here it is:

“Memorable among the Saxon warriors were Hengist and his wife (? or horse), Horsa. Hengist made himself King in the South. Thus Hengist was the first English King and his wife (or horse), Horsa, the first English Queen (or horse).”

Imagine my joy today, many decades later, to receive the daily Word a Day email and read the following:


noun: A supporter or subordinate, especially one who engages in illegal activities for a powerful boss or criminal.

From Old English hengest (a male horse) + man. Earlier a henchman was an attendant who walked or rode beside a prince. Earliest documented use: 1360.

It's an OMG moment! Hengest was named for a male horse and he was married to a woman called Horsa?

Hmm... There's more to this than meets the eye. I love it!


Patsy said...

I love learning the origin of words.

parlance said...

Patsy, I'm super glad you made this comment, because I didn't realise you had a word blog as well as your womagwriter blog. I'll following it now.

Mary said...

I soon loved 1066 and all that. Must see if I can find a copy.