Entries linking to wharfinger
late Old English hwearf "shore, bank where ships can tie up," earlier "dam, embankment," from Proto-Germanic *hwarfaz (source also of Middle Low German werf "mole, dam, wharf," German Werft "shipyard, dockyard"); related to Old English hwearfian "to turn," perhaps in a sense implying "busy activity," from PIE root *kwerp- "to turn, revolve" (source also of Old Norse hverfa "to turn round," German werben "to enlist, solicit, court, woo," Gothic hvairban "to wander," Greek karpos "wrist," Sanskrit surpam "winnowing fan"). Wharf rat is from 1812 as "type of rat common on ships and docks;" extended sense "person who hangs around docks" is recorded from 1836.
English agent noun ending, corresponding to Latin -or. In native words it represents Old English -ere (Old Northumbrian also -are) "man who has to do with," from Proto-Germanic *-ari (cognates: German -er, Swedish -are, Danish -ere), from Proto-Germanic *-arjoz. Some believe this root is identical with, and perhaps a borrowing of, Latin -arius (see -ary).
Generally used with native Germanic words. In words of Latin origin, verbs derived from past participle stems of Latin ones (including most verbs in -ate) usually take the Latin ending -or, as do Latin verbs that passed through French (such as governor); but there are many exceptions (eraser, laborer, promoter, deserter; sailor, bachelor), some of which were conformed from Latin to English in late Middle English.
The use of -or and -ee in legal language (such as lessor/lessee) to distinguish actors and recipients of action has given the -or ending a tinge of professionalism, and this makes it useful in doubling words that have a professional and a non-professional sense (such as advisor/adviser, conductor/conducter, incubator/incubater, elevator/elevater).
c. 1200, messager (late 12c. as a surname), "one who bears a message; the bearer of a verbal or written communication," from Old French messagier "messenger, envoy, ambassador," from message (see message (n.)). With unetymological -n- inserted by c. 1300 for no apparent reason except that people liked to say it that way (compare passenger, harbinger, scavenger). From c. 1200 as "a harbinger, forerunner, precursor" (in reference to John the Baptist as the precursor of Christ).
updated on October 28, 2016