Printable Version
Pronunciation: spring-hæws Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A small storehouse built over a stream (spring) or well to keep meats and dairy products fresh.

Notes: Brrr! It is chilly in here! Spring has so many meanings, it makes this word difficult to interpret. It could mean "a place where boing-boing springs are kept", or "a house where people live only in the spring", in addition to the meaning we will pursue here.

In Play: I can recall a time when people called a refrigerator an "ice box", because in the generation of the ice delivery man (The Iceman Cometh), ice was the coolant of urban refrigerators. On the farm, however, springhouses were often used as refrigerators: "Where's pa, ma?" "Last time I saw him, he was down by the springhouse." Farmers kept everything perishable in the springhouse, not just dairy products: "Why don't you take these eggs out to the springhouse, Festus?"

Word History: Today's Good Word, of course, is a compound comprising spring + house. All three senses of spring sprang from a single source: the verb to spring (forth). The sense of "stream" started out referring only to the source of the stream, where it sprang up out of the ground. The sense of "season of the year" came from the association of the time when plants sprang up and started blooming. The word for "house" is similar in all Germanic languages: German Haus, Dutch huis, Swedish, Norwegian and Danish hus. We don't know where this word came from, but we do know where it went. It was borrowed by several Slavic languages as their word for "hut": Russian khizhina, Czech chýshe, Slovenian hisha, and Bulgarian khizha.

Dr. Goodword,

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