Etymology
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meander (n.)

1570s, "confusion, intricacy" (a sense now obsolete), from Latin meander "a winding course," from Greek Maiandros, name of a river in Caria noted for its winding course (the Greeks used the name figuratively for winding patterns). In English in reference to river courses from 1590s. Sense of "a winding course, a winding or turning in a passage" is from 1630s. Adjectival forms that have been tried are meandrine (1846); meandrous (1650s); meandrian (c. 1600); meandry (1610s).

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meander (v.)

"flow in a winding course" (of rivers), 1610s, from meander (n.). Of a person or persons, "to travel on a meandering river" (1821), then "to wander aimlessly" (1831), which was perhaps influenced by confusion with maunder [OED]. Related: Meandered; meandering.

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oxbow (n.)

also ox-bow, early 14c., ox-boue, "bow-shaped wooden collar for an ox," from ox + bow (n.1). Meaning "semicircular bend in a river" is from 1797, American English (New England), so called from the resemblance of the shape. The meaning "curved lake left after an oxbow meander has been cut off by a change in the river course" is from 1898.

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maunder (v.)

"to wander about aimlessly," 1746, earlier "to mumble, grumble" (1620s), both senses perhaps (with a notion of "to speak with a beggar's whine or grumble") from frequentative of maund "to beg" (1560s), which is possibly from French mendier "to beg," from Latin mendicare "to beg, ask alms" (see mendicant).

"Though the etymology of maunder is uncertain, it is clear that it is not a corruption of meander" [Fowler], but the two words seem to have influenced each other. Meaning "to wander in talking like one drunken or foolish" is by 1831. Fowler writes that maunder is "best confined to speech, & suggests futility rather than digression ... & failure to reach an end rather than loitering on the way to it." Related: Maundered; maundering.

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