- bread (n.)
- Old English bread "bit, crumb, morsel; bread," cognate with Old Norse brauð, Danish brød, Old Frisian brad, Middle Dutch brot, Dutch brood, German Brot. According to one theory [Watkins, etc.] from Proto-Germanic *brautham, which would be from the root of brew (v.) and refer to the leavening.
But OED argues at some length for the basic sense being not "cooked food" but "piece of food," and the Old English word deriving from a Proto-Germanic *braudsmon- "fragments, bits" (cf. Old High German brosma "crumb," Old English breotan "to break in pieces") and being related to the root of break (v.). It cites Slovenian kruh "bread," literally "a piece."
Either way, by c.1200 it had replaced the usual Old English word for "bread," which was hlaf (see loaf (n.)). Slang meaning "money" dates from 1940s, but cf. breadwinner. Bread-and-butter in the figurative sense of "basic needs" is from 1732. Bread and circuses (1914) is from Latin, in reference to food and entertainment provided by governments to keep the populace happy. "Duas tantum res anxius optat, Panem et circenses" [Juvenal, Sat. x.80].
- bread (v.)
- "to dress with bread crumbs," 1727, from bread (n.). Related: Breaded; breading.