Etymology
Advertisement
speak (v.)

Old English specan, variant of sprecan "to speak, utter words; make a speech; hold discourse (with others)" (class V strong verb; past tense spræc, past participle sprecen), from Proto-Germanic *sprekanan (source also of Old Saxon sprecan, Old Frisian spreka, Middle Dutch spreken, Old High German sprehhan, German sprechen "to speak," Old Norse spraki "rumor, report"), from PIE root *spreg- (1) "to speak," perhaps identical with PIE root *spreg- (2) "to strew," on notion of speech as a "scattering" of words.

The -r- began to drop out in Late West Saxon and was gone by mid-12c., perhaps from influence of Danish spage "crackle," also used in a slang sense of "speak" (compare crack (v.) in slang senses having to do with speech, such as wisecrack, cracker, all it's cracked up to be). Elsewhere, rare variant forms without -r- are found in Middle Dutch (speken), Old High German (spehhan), dialectal German (spächten "speak").

Not the primary word for "to speak" in Old English (the "Beowulf" author prefers maþelian, from mæþel "assembly, council," from root of metan "to meet;" compare Greek agoreuo "to speak, explain," originally "speak in the assembly," from agora "assembly").

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
speak (n.)
c. 1300, "talk, speech," from speak (v.). Survived in Scottish English and dialect, but modern use in compounds probably is entirely traceable to Orwell (see Newspeak).
Related entries & more 
spake 
archaic or poetic past tense of speak.
Related entries & more 
-spoken 
in compounds, "speaking" (in a certain way), late-15c., from past participle of speak (v.).
Related entries & more 
speakable (adj.)
late 15c., from speak (v.) + -able. Also see unspeakable. Old English had sprecendlic "that should be spoken."
Related entries & more 
Advertisement
spoken (adj.)
"uttered, oral" (as opposed to written), 1837, past-participle adjective from speak (v.).
Related entries & more 
doublespeak (n.)
1957, from double (adj.) + speak, coined on model of doublethink in Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (the language in that book was Newspeak).
Related entries & more 
unspeakable (adj.)
c. 1400, "inexpressible," from un- (1) "not" + speakable (see speak (v.)). Meaning "indescribably bad or wicked" is recorded from mid-15c. Related: Unspeakably.
Related entries & more 
Newspeak (n.)
name of the artificial language of official communication in George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," 1949, from new (adj.) + speak (n.). Frequently applied to what is perceived as propagandistic warped English.
Related entries & more 
unspoken (adj.)
late 14c., from un- (1) "not" + past participle of speak (v.). Similar formation in Middle Dutch ongesproken, Middle Low German ungesproken.
Related entries & more