Where does the word “gazette” come from and What does gazette mean?

Back toward the early part of the sixteenth century there circulated in Venice a small coin of low value, made chiefly of tin.

Probably it was worth no more than half a cent in our currency. The Venetians called it a gazzetta.

This name may have been a diminutive of gazza, a magpie, or, as some scholars believe, a diminutive of gaza, which denoted the treasure of Persian kings.

If the latter, the Venetian gazzetta was an extremely small treasure. Be that as it may, the Venetian government began to issue official leaflets, about the middle of the sixteenth century, which dealt with battles, games, elections, and other matters of general interest.

Some of the material was supplied by merchants returning from foreign ports. Much of the information was based upon unreliable rumor and hearsay. The price set upon this paper, or for the privilege of reading it in such public places as it was displayed, was one gazzetta.

The leaflet itself thus became known as a gazzetta. This term was brought into England in 1598 by John Florio in his Italian-English dictionary.

He described the contents of the paper as, “running reports, daily newes, idle intelligences, or flim flam tales that are daily written from Italie, namely from Rome and Venice.”

Our present spelling came about through French influence.

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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