Where does the word “fun” originate and What does fun mean?

We know that “son” is pronounced as if spelled “sun,” so it is not surprising to learn that the word “fun” was spelled fon back in the days of Chaucer.

The meaning of fon, however, was not quite the same as that which we give to the later spelling.

It meant “a fool,” and when the word was revived in the early part of the eighteenth century in the present sense and spelling, fun, after two centuries of disuse, the learned Dr. Samuel Johnson called it “a low cant word.”

In the early use, fon was also a verb, meaning “to act the fool; become foolish.” Its past participle, though sometimes spelled fonned, was then usually spelled fond. So when Shakespeare and earlier writers speak of “fond old men” or “fond maydens,” they actually described foolish or silly old men or maids.

This past participle didn’t fall into disuse, as did fon, but its meaning gradually altered from “foolish” to “foolishly tender,” and finally to “tender and sentimental,” although fond young men, and especially fond old men, still often look and act foolish.

Toward the eighteenth century someone felt the need of a verb to indicate the action of being fond, and thus created fondle.

Sometimes it, too, carries back to the original fon, for a doting grandmother sometimes acts foolish when fondling a grandchild.

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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