\ \ [14] The ancestor of hearse seems to have been a word in an ancient Italic language meaning ‘wolf’ – Oscan hirpus. The salient feature of wolves being their teeth, the Romans took the word over as hirpex and used it for a ‘large rake, of the sort used for breaking up fields’. It passed via Vulgar Latin *herpica into Old French as herse, and by now had moved another semantic step further away from its original sense ‘wolf’, for, since agricultural harrows in those times were typically toothed triangular frames, the word herse was applied to a triangular frame for holding candles, as used in a church, and particularly as placed over a coffin at funeral services. This was its meaning when English acquired it, and it only gradually developed via ‘canopy placed over a coffin’ and ‘coffin, bier’ to the modern sense ‘funeral carriage’ (first recorded in the mid-17th century).

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Hearse — (h[ e]rs), n. [See {Herse}.] 1. A framework of wood or metal placed over the coffin or tomb of a deceased person, and covered with a pall; also, a temporary canopy bearing wax lights and set up in a church, under which the coffin was placed… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hearse — Hearse, v. t. To inclose in a hearse; to entomb. [Obs.] Would she were hearsed at my foot. Shak. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hearse — (h[ e]rs), n. [Etymol. uncertain.] A hind in the second year of its age. [Eng.] Wright. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hearse — Allgemeine Informationen Genre(s) Melodic Death Metal, Death ’n’ Roll Gründung 2001 Website …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • hearse — [hə:s US hə:rs] n [Date: 1200 1300; : Old French; Origin: herce frame for holding candles, farm tool for breaking up soil , from Latin hirpex] a large car used to carry a dead body in a ↑coffin at a funeral …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • hearse — [ hɜrs ] noun count a large car used for carrying a dead person in a COFFIN …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • hearse — (n.) c.1300 (late 13c. in Anglo Latin), flat framework for candles, hung over a coffin, from O.Fr. herce long rake, harrow, from M.L. hercia, from L. hirpicem (nom. hirpex) harrow, from Oscan hirpus wolf, supposedly in allusion to its teeth. Or… …   Etymology dictionary

  • hearse — ► NOUN ▪ a vehicle for conveying the coffin at a funeral. ORIGIN originally denoting a latticework canopy placed over the coffin of an important person in church: from Old French herce harrow, frame , from Latin hirpex rake …   English terms dictionary

  • hearse — [hʉrs] n. [ME herce < OFr, a harrow, grated portcullis < L hirpex, a large rake with iron teeth < dial (Sabine) irpus, wolf (hence, lit., wolf tooth device)] 1. an automobile or carriage, used in a funeral for carrying the corpse 2. a) a …   English World dictionary

  • Hearse — For the extreme metal band, see Hearse (band) A hearse is a funeral vehicle, a conveyance for the coffin from e.g. a church to a cemetery, a similar burial site, or a crematorium. In the funeral trade, they are often called funeral… …   Wikipedia

  • hearse — [hə:s] noun a vehicle for conveying the coffin at a funeral. Word History The modern meaning of the word hearse is far removed from that of its ancient roots. It derives ultimately from a word in an extinct language of southern Italy, signifying… …   English new terms dictionary

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