1794, "a scramble, a confused struggle;" 1842, "a scrawling character in writing," from scrabble (v.) in its various senses. One of the scr- group of words of interlocking origin; also compare scramble, and scribble-scrabble "hasty writing" (1580s), a reduplication of scribble (n.). The popular word-forming board game, 1949, a proprietary name (registered U.S.), with capital S-. Theological polemicists of the 17th century had scrabblement as an insult for "unmeaning, rambling writing."
city in northern Vietnam, from Vietnamese Hà Nôi, literally "River Inside," from hà "river" + nôi "inside." So called in reference to its situation in a bend of the Red River. Known 18c. as Dong Kinh "Eastern Capital," which was corrupted by Europeans into Tonkin, Tonquin, and that name was used in the French colonial period to refer to the entire region and extended to the gulf to the east.
capital of old Brabant and modern Belgium, a name of Germanic origin, from brocca "marsh" + sali "room, building," from Latin cella (see cell). It arose 6c. as a fortress on an island in a river. As a type of carpet, from 1799; as a type of lace, from 1748.
Brussels sprouts (Brassica oleracea gemmifera) is attested from 1748 (the first written description of them is from 1580s); they have long been associated with Flanders and especially Brussels (compare the French name, choux de Bruxelles).
ancient city, modern Antakya in Turkey, anciently the capital of Syria, founded c. 300 B.C.E. by Seleucus I Nictor and named for his father, Antiochus. The name, also borne by several Syrian kings and an eclectic philosopher, is a Latinized form of Greek Antiokhos, literally "resistant, holding out against," from anti "against" (see anti-) + ekhein "to have, hold;" in intransitive use, "be in a given state or condition" (from PIE root *segh- "to hold"). Related: Antiochian.
fem. proper name, from Latin, literally "queen;" related to rex (genitive regis) "king" (from PIE root *reg- "move in a straight line," with derivatives meaning "to direct in a straight line," thus "to lead, rule"). Cognate with Sanskrit rajni "queen," Welsh rhyain "maiden, virgin." The capital city of Saskatchewan was named 1882 by the then-governor general of Canada, Marquess of Lorne, in honor of Queen Victoria.
capital of Iraq; the name is pre-Islamic and dates to the 8c., but its origin is disputed. It often is conjectured to be of Indo-European origin, from Middle Persian elements, and mean "gift of god," from bagh "god" (cognate with Russian bog "god," Sanskrit Bhaga; compare Bhagavad-Gita) + dād "given" (from PIE root *do- "to give"). But some have suggested origins for the name in older languages of the region. Marco Polo (13c.) wrote it Baudac.
Middle English, earlier Ligraceaster, Ligera ceaster (early 10c.) "Roman Town of the People Called Ligore," a tribal name, perhaps "dwellers by the River Ligor." For second element, see Chester. The site is the Roman Ratae Coritanorum, fortified tribal capital of the Coritani, whose name is of unknown origin, with a Celtic word for "ramparts." The modern name "is best regarded as a new descriptive term for a deserted site" [Watts, "Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names"].
surname, attested from c. 1400 (Harrys), from "Harry," the popular pronunciation of Henry. As a type of tweed (1892), it is from the name of the southern section of the island of Lewis with Harris in the Outer Hebrides; originally it referred to fabric produced by the inhabitants there, later a proprietary name. That place name represents Gaelic na-h-earaidh "that which is higher," in comparison to the lower Lewis. Harrisburg, capital of Pennsylvania, is named for ferryman John Harris (1727-1791), son of the original European settler.
capital of Babylon, now a ruin near Hillah in Iraq, late 14c., from Late Latin, from Hebrew Babhel (Genesis xi), from Akkadian bab-ilu "Gate of God" (from bab "gate" + ilu "god"). The name is a translation of Sumerian Ka-dingir.
The meaning "a confused medley of sounds" (1520s) is from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel and the confusion of tongues (Genesis xi). The element bab figures in other place-names across the Middle East, such as Bab-el-Mandeb, the strait at the mouth of the Red Sea.
capital of Laconia in ancient Greece, famed for severity of its social order, the frugality of its people, the valor of its arms, and the brevity of its speech. Also for dirty boys, men vain of their long hair, boxing girls, iron money, and insufferable black broth. The name is said to be from Greek sparte "cord made from spartos," a type of broom, from PIE *spr-to-, from root *sper- (2) "to turn, twist" (see spiral (adj.)). Perhaps the reference is to the cords laid as foundation markers for the city. Or the whole thing could be folk etymology.