The origin of the word "surfing"

Surf: it all started 2,000 years ago

"Surfing" is a noun; "surf" is a verb. But how did these words evolve over time? Where do the words "surfing" and "surf" come from?

When we look up in the (online) dictionary the word "surfing," this is what we get in return:

  • The sport or pastime of riding a wave towards the shore while standing or lying on a surfboard;
  • The activity of moving from site to site on the Internet, also known as "surfing the Internet";

For the word "surf," here's the result: a) stand or lie on a surfboard and ride on a wave towards the shore; b) move from site to site on (the Internet).

Interestingly, linguists believe that the word "surf" has its origins in the late 17th century, apparently from the obsolete "suff," meaning "the shoreward surge of the sea."

The language specialists underline that "suff" might have been influenced by the spelling of "surge."

Surge: A Powerful Movement

Alright. So, now we've got "surge."

This word dates back to the 15th century and can be translated as "a sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a crowd or by a natural force such as the tide."

We can see (and hear) that there's still a logical connection with the sport of surfing. But the history challenge is not yet won.

Let's dig a bit more.

"Surge" (meaning fountain or steam) comes from Old French verb "sourge," which, in turn, is influenced by the Latin "surgo/surgere" (to rise).

Linguists highlight that the word "surge" was initially used to reveal the "rise and fall on the waves" and to express a "swell with great force" as well.

The original Latin "surgo" tells us "to rise, arise, get up, stand up."

In the end, it all makes sense. Surfing involves humans "rising and standing" on a surfboard, but waves and tides also rise.

We're stunned by what we found: the word "surgo," the linguistic mother of "surfing," has roughly 2,000 years.

Surfing/Surf: The Etymology of the Word

Surgo/Surgere (Latin) > Sourge (Old French) > Surge/Suff (English) > Surf (17th Century)

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