How adder lost its first letter
Words formed by what linguists call “false division,” “misdivision,” or “metanalysis” have spellings that record a mistake that was made at some point in their history, when the spelling or sound of the word was split in the wrong place.
Misdivisions of words that begin with the letter n are frequent because, in speech, it is difficult to distinguish between the sound of the indefinite article “a” followed by a word beginning with an n (as in “a name”) and the sound of the indefinite article “an” followed by a word beginning with a vowel (as in “an aim”). This make the position of the n very easily confused.
An example is the name of the venomous snake known as the adder. The Old English word for this viper was nǣdre, which became nadder in Middle English. Over time, a nadder became an adder. By by the mid-1400s, the word was being spelled both with and without the n, but since about 1500, the n-less spelling has prevailed.
Origin and Etymology of adder
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
ADDER Defined for Kids
medical Definition of adder
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