How did the Nuthatch get its name and What does “Hatchet” mean in French?

The small bird known as the Nuthatch, of several varieties, got its name from certain of its feeding habits.

Although it eats a profusion of insects, it is especially notable as an eater of acorns and the nuts found in pine cones, the shells of which it breaks with its sharp beak.

Our ancient forebears therefore gave it a descriptive name, combining nut with hatch, a term borrowed from French hacher, “to chop, hack”; hence, a bird that hacks nuts for its food.

Our words hatchet, “that which chops,” and hash, “that which is chopped,” came from the same French source.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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