Etymology
Advertisement
Advertisement
birch (n.)

"hardy, slender northern forest tree noted for its white bark," Old English berc, beorc (also the name of the rune for "b"), from Proto-Germanic *berkjon (source also of Old Saxon birka, Old Norse börk, Danish birk, Swedish and Icelandic björk (which is also a girl's given name), Middle Dutch berke, Dutch berk, Old High German birihha, German Birke).

This is from PIE *bhergo (source also of Ossetian barz, Old Church Slavonic breza, Russian bereza, Lithuanian beržas, Sanskrit bhurjah, all names of birch-like trees, Latin fraxinus "mountain ash"), from root *bhereg- "to shine; bright, white," in reference to the bark. Birch beer is by 1827, American English.

Related entries & more 
birch (v.)

"to flog," 1830, from the noun in the sense "bunch of birch twigs used for flogging" (1640s); see birch (n.). Related: Birched; birching.

Related entries & more 
birch-bark (n.)

1640s, American English, from birch (n.) + bark (n.1). Old English had beorcrind.

Related entries & more 
birchen (adj.)

"consisting or made of birch," mid-15c., from birch (n.) + -en (2). Similar formation in German birken.

Related entries & more 
Advertisement
Betula (n.)

genus of the birches, from Latin betula "birch," from Gaulish betu- "bitumen" (source also of Middle Irish beithe "box tree," Welsh bedwen "birch tree"). According to Pliny, so called because the Gauls extracted tar from birches. Birch tar still is sold as an analgesic and stimulant and made into birch beer by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Related entries & more 
bitumen (n.)

a name given by the Roman writers to various hydrocarbons including asphalt and petroleum, mid-15c., from Latin bitumen "asphalt, mineral pitch," probably, via Oscan or Umbrian, from Celtic *betu- "birch, birch resin" (compare Gaulish betulla "birch," used by Pliny for the tree supposedly the source of bitumen). Related: Bituminate.

Related entries & more 
catkin (n.)

"spike of a flowering tree or shrub (especially a willow or birch) after fruiting," 1570s, from Dutch katteken "flowering stem of willow, birch, hazel, etc.," literally "kitten," diminutive of katte "cat" (see cat (n.)). So called for their soft, furry appearance.

Related entries & more 
Bircher (n.)

1961, member of the U.S. anti-communist John Birch Society, which was founded 1958 and named for John Birch, U.S. Baptist missionary and Army Air Forces captain killed by Chinese Communists shortly after the end of World War II, who is considered the first American casualty of the Cold War.

Related entries & more 
gey (adj.)

a Scottish variant of gay (compare gray/grey), used 18c.-19c. also with the Scottish sense of "considerable, pretty much, considerably."

Related entries & more