• crone •
Pronunciation: kron • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: A withered or shriveled woman, wrinkled by age.
Notes: While we are on the subject of old women (see also anile), here is another only slightly offensive way of referring to an old woman. It has no relation to crony, a word that apparently emerged from 17th century Cambridge University slang, probably influenced by Greek khronios "long-lasting".
In Play: Although some dictionaries claim that a crone must be ugly, even nasty or intemperate, I have decided not to include these attitudes as part of today's definition: "Faye Slift spent most of her dearly departed husband's money in the avoidance of becoming a crone as she aged." The critical characteristic of crones is that they are shriveled by age: "The advantage of becoming an old crone is that you can again fit the clothes you wore in high school."
Word History: Our best guess today is that crone came from Old North French carogne "carrion", which was also used for a cantankerous old woman. The Old French word came from Vulgar Latin caronia "carrion", a word that went on to become French charogne "carrion, rotting carcass". The root underlying this word was originally Latin car(n)o "flesh, meat", a word that changed little, reaching Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish as carne, as in Spanish chili con carne "chili with meat". This word also turned up in carnaticum "slaughter of animals", which French converted to another word English borrowed: carnage. Latin inherited this root from Proto-Indo-European (s)ker- "cut" with a Fickle S, since carrion could be the remains of a butchered animal. The S on this root remained in Germanic languages and ended up in English as the verb shear.