early 15c., "a passage over a river," from the verb or from Old Norse ferju-, in compounds, "passage across water," ultimately from the same Germanic root as ferry (v.). Meaning "place where boats pass over a body of water" is from mid-15c. The sense "boat or raft to convey passengers and goods short distances across a body of water" (1580s) is a shortening of ferry boat (mid-15c.).
Old English ferian "to carry, convey, bring, transport" (in late Old English, especially over water), from Proto-Germanic *farjan "to ferry" (source also of Old Frisian feria "carry, transport," Old Norse ferja "to pass over, to ferry," Gothic farjan "travel by boat"), from PIE root *per-(2) "to lead, pass over." Related to fare (v.). Related: Ferried; ferries; ferrying.
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