Etymology
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fern (n.)

Old English fearn "fern," from Proto-Germanic *farno- (source also of Old Saxon farn, Middle Dutch vaern, Dutch varen, Old High German farn, German Farn). Watkins and other sources propose an etymology on the notion of "having feathery fronds" from a possible PIE *por-no- "feather, wing" (source also of Sanskrit parnam "feather, leaf;" Lithuanian papartis "fern;" Russian paporot'; Greek pteris "fern"), a proposed suffixed form of the root *per- (2) "to lead, pass over," on the notion of "that which carries a bird in flight."

The plant's ability to appear as if from nothing accounts for the ancient belief that fern seeds conferred invisibility (1590s). Filicology "science or study of ferns" (1848) is from Latin filix "fern."

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fern-tickles (n.)
"freckles, spots or blemishes on the body" (late 14c.), of unknown origin. Related: Fern-tickled "having spots or blemishes on the skin."
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brake (n.2)
kind of fern, early 14c.; see bracken.
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brake (n.3)
"thicket; place overgrown with bushes, brambles, or brushwood," mid-15c., originally "fern-brake, thicket of fern," perhaps from or related to Middle Low German brake "rough or broken ground," from the root of break (v.). Or, more likely, from Middle English brake "fern" (c. 1300), from Old Norse (compare Swedish bräken, Danish bregne), and related to bracken. In the U.S., applied to cane thickets.
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bracken (n.)
"coarse fern," c. 1300, a northern England word, probably from a Scandinavian source (compare Danish bregne, Swedish bräken "fern"), from Proto-Germanic *brak- "undergrowth, bushes," from PIE root *bhreg- "to break" on the notion of "that which impedes motion" [Watkins].
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pteridology (n.)

"the study of ferns as a branch of botany," 1850, with -logy + from Greek pteris "fern, bracken," probably originally "feather plant," so called for the form of the leaves, and related to pteron "wing" (from PIE root *pet- "to rush, to fly"). Compare fern, also supposed to be descended from a root meaning "feather." Related: Pteridologist (1845).

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ginkgo (n.)

1773, from Japanese ginkyo, from Chinese yin-hing, from yin "silver" + hing "apricot" (Sino-Japanese kyo). Introduced to New World 1784 by William Hamilton in his garden near Philadelphia; also formerly known as the maidenhair-tree (1773), from resemblance of the tree's leaves to the maidenhair fern (late 14c.).

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far (adj.)

Middle English fer, from Old English feorr "far, remote, distant," from Proto-Germanic *ferera- (cognates: Old Saxon fer, Old Frisian fer, Old Norse fjarre, Dutch ver, Old High German ferro, German fern), probably a development in western Proto-Germanic from the adverb (see far (adv.)). Far East "China, Japan, and surrounding regions" is from 1838.

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firn (n.)
"consolidated snow, the raw material of glaciers," 1839, literally "last year's snow, névé," from German Firn, from Swiss dialectal firn "of last year," from Middle High German virne "old," from Old High German firni, related to Old English fyrn "old," Gothic fairns "of last year," from Proto-Germanic *fur- "before" (see fore (adv.)).

The only living English relic of a useful word meaning "of last year" that was widespread in Indo-European languages (cognates: Lithuanian pernai "last year" (adv.), Greek perysi "a year ago, last year," Sanskrit parut "of last year;" also German Firnewein "wine of last year"). Old English had fyrngemynd "ancient history," more literally, "memory of long ago;" fyrnmann "man of old times;" fyrnnes "antiquity;" fyrnsægen "old saying." Middle English retained fern "long ago, formerly, of old," fern-days "days of old, former year, a year past."
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fiddle-head (n.)

also fiddlehead, "one with a head as hollow as a fiddle," 1854 (fiddleheaded), from fiddle (n.) + head (n.). As a name for young fern fronds, from 1877, from resemblance to a violin's scroll. Earliest use is nautical, "carved ornamental work at the bow of a ship in the form of a scroll or volute" (1799).

There are three kinds of heads,—1st The Figure-head is one on which is placed the figure of a man, woman, or the like, &c.; 2d, The Billet-head, or Scroll-head is one finished with two scrolls or volutes ...; and 3d, the Fiddle-head, which is finished with only one scroll or volute, having the spirals turning inwards to the vessel. [Peter Hedderwick, "Treatise on Marine Architecture," Edinburgh, 1830]
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