Obsolete word? Bah!

Agroof, adverb meaning flat on one’s face.


I was looking for a word that would relate to the snow storm we had on the East Coast last night, when I came across this little gem. Technically speaking, it’s an obsolete word dating back to the early 1600s. I also found a glossary reference in Winter Evening Tales, a book published in 1820. But you know where else I found it? Urban Dictionary. Right? So here’s a case of a fairly obsolete word that’s mostly listed no where at all resurfacing in popular culture. How does that happen? There are a few wordies out there who’ve referenced agroof in their blogs or digital lists (calling it both an adjective and a noun, but in my mind, it’s clearly an adverb), so I suppose the internet allows for the rebirth of antiquated vocabulary. But how did it end up on Urban Dictionary when I can’t even find an etymological source? Probably because it’s a great word that’s precise and captures the slapstick of, well, falling flat on your face.

So, long story short: be careful on the streets today – you wouldn’t want to embarass yourself by falling agroof in front of everyone.

Categories: cartoon, etymology, Ponderings | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Obsolete word? Bah!

  1. Reese

    Got here via Facebook–Erin, this is so fun. Agroof!

  2. etymologyfreak

    I was so pleased to find someone using the tag “etymology” when I entered it into Tag surfer. And I’m even more delighted that the first post I hit on is one I can make an addition to.

    I’ve never heard this word before, but it is certainly related to grovel: http://www.bartleby.com/61/77/G0287700.html

    As you can probably guess by my name, I’m a little bit obsessed with etymology.

  3. That’s pretty amazing – thanks for pointing that out! Grufe! Grovel! Agroof!

  4. etymologyfreak

    I should have thought to look here the other night, but the OED lists it (with the spellings agrufe, agruif and agroof) as obsolete with the last cite from 1638: ADAMSON Muses Thren. 112 (Jam.) “Agruif lay some, others with eyes to skyes.” They also confirm the Old Norse connection.

    My guess is that someone has been making a conscious effort to drag it out of the ash heap, so they put it on Urban Dictionary. OED is usually pretty good about giving modern cites if the word still exists in a dialect somewhere (although no one’s perfect), so I’m guessing it’s a revival attempt. I don’t see it being successful, however, since “on one’s face” seems to cover the semantic field of agroof pretty thoroughly.

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