• troll •
Pronunciation: trol • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb, Noun
Meaning: 1. (Verb) To fish by pulling a line through the water. 2. (Verb) To try to lure or incite someone by passing something where they can see it. 3. (Obsolete verb) To sing in the manner of a round or simply merrily. 4. (Noun) A Norse demon that lives under bridges. 5. (Noun) Someone who posts provocative messages to social media intended to cause maximum disruption.
Notes: We have reduced the 14 meanings of today's Good Word found in the Oxford English Dictionary to the five central ones you see here. Most of this word's meanings are obsolete, but the fifth has emerged in the US news media quite recently.
In Play: The third meaning of this word emerges only in the Christmas carol, Deck the Halls:
"Don we now our gay apparel
Fa la la la la la la la la
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol
Fa la la la la la la la la."
The fifth sense, by far the more common today, arises in expressions like: "Trolls on social media had an impact on the 2016 US elections."
Word History: The origin of the verbal sense of today's Good Word is something of a mystery. It can be traced back only as far as two Old French words, troller "to go hunting" and trôler "to meander, wander about". The latter sense may have been borrowed from Germanic trollen "to roll", but then disappeared from most dialects. The French troller today was borrowed back from English and means "to spam". You can see how the senses of the French words might be related to the first two meanings of today's word, but where the third meaning came from is anybody's guess. The verb has no relation to the noun troll, which was borrowed from Norwegian. (Let us all troll a melody of Yuletide thanksgiving to Peggy Nielsen for suggesting this elderly member of the English vocabulary for today's Good Word.)