c. 1400, seuer, "conduit, trench, or ditch used for drainage" (of surface water or marshland), from Anglo-French sewere (early 14c.), Old North French sewiere "sluice from a pond" (13c.), literally "something that makes water flow." From late 13c. in surnames (Robertus Atte Suor). Also compare Anglo-Latin sewera, suera. These are from a shortened form of Gallo-Roman *exaquaria (source of Old French esseveur), from Latin ex "out" (see ex-) + aquaria, fem. of aquarius "pertaining to water," from aqua "water" (from PIE root *akwa- "water"). For form evolution, compare ewer, from Latin aquarius.
After c. 1600 the sense of "underground channel for wastewater" emerged and predomination, especially "a public drain; a conduit or canal constructed to carry off waste water, etc." Figurative use of this is from 1640s. Sewer rat, the common brown rat when infesting sewers, is from 1861.
"one who sews or uses the needle," late 14c., agent noun from sew (v.). Seuestre "seamstress" is attested from mid-14c. (late 13c. as a surname) and also was used of men.
updated on July 08, 2022