Etymology
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wormwood (n.)
c. 1400, folk etymology of Old English wermod "wormwood, absinthe," related to vermouth, but the ultimate etymology is unknown. Compare Old Saxon wermoda, Dutch wermoet, Old High German werimuota, German Wermut. Weekley suggests wer "man" + mod "courage," from its early use as an aphrodisiac. Figurative use, however, is usually in reference to its proverbial bitter aftertaste. Perhaps because of the folk etymology, it formerly was used to protect clothes and bedding from moths and fleas. "A medecyne for an hawke that hath mites. Take the Iuce of wormewode and put it ther thay be and thei shall dye." ["Book of St. Albans," 1486]
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vermouth (n.)
white wine flavored with aromatic herbs, 1806, from French vermouth (18c.), from German Wermuth "wormwood," from Middle High German wermuot, from Old High German wermuota (see wormwood), name of the aromatic herb formerly used in the flavoring of the liqueur.
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absinthe (n.)
Origin and meaning of absinthe
also absinth (though properly that means "wormwood"), "bitter, pale-green alcoholic liqueur distilled from wine mixed with wormwood" (Artemisia Absinthium), 1842, from French absinthe, "essence of wormwood" (short for extrait d'absinthe) from Latin absinthum "wormwood," from Greek apsinthion, which is perhaps from Persian (compare Persian aspand, of the same meaning). The wormwood plant itself is figurative of "bitter" sorrow; it was known as absinth in English from c. 1500; Old English used the word in the Latin form. The drink itself attained popularity from its heavy use by French soldiers in Algiers. Related: Absinthal; absinthic; absinthism.
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tarragon (n.)
Artemisia Dracunculus, Eastern European plant of the wormwood genus, 1530s, from Medieval Latin tragonia, from Byzantine Greek tarchon, from Arabic tarkhon, from a non-Arabic source, perhaps Greek drakon "serpent, dragon" (via drakontion "dragonwort"); see dragon. From the same source come Spanish taragona, Italian targone, French estragon (with unetymological prefix). Its aromatic leaves long have been used for flavoring (especially vinegar).
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tansy (n.)
perennial herb native to northern Eurasia, mid-13c., from Old French tanesie (13c., Modern French tanaisie), from Vulgar Latin *tanaceta (neuter plural mistaken for fem. singular), from Late Latin tanacetum "wormwood," from shortened form of Greek athanasia "immortality," from athanatos "immortal," from a- "not," privative prefix, + thanatos "death" (see thanatology). So called probably for its persistence. English folklore associates it with pregnancy, either as an aid to contraception or to provoke miscarriage.
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