||[Dec. 21st, 2009|02:52 pm]
Historical Origins of English Words and Phrases
yesterday, n. [yes-ter-dey, yěs-tər-dā]
-Though the requester correctly noted that yesterday and yeast have similar pronunciations and spellings, they are not in fact related. Yesterday is first seen as a single word in a document from about 1250 CE, being spelled as yisterdai. It was formed from the Old English compound noun geostran dæg 'yesterday day' (c. 950), with geostran being first recorded on its own around 725. While geostran was originally sufficient on its own, over time it became absolutely paired with dæg. Interestingly, though many of the cognates of Old English geostran have equivalent definitions, several mean 'tomorrow' or both 'yesterday' and 'tomorrow': Middle Low German gistern 'yesterday,' Middle Dutch ghisteren 'yesterday,' Old Norse gær 'tomorrow, yesterday,' Gothic gistradagis 'tomorrow.' All of these stem from Proto-Germanic gestra 'the other day,' which could refer to either before or after the present day, leading to the dichotomous definitions in the daughter languages. The Germanic root is thought to have descended from prehistoric Indo-European ghes-, which also created Sanskrit hyah, Avestan zyo, Persian di, Greek khthes, Old Irish indhe, and Welsh doe, all meaning 'yesterday' or 'an indistinct past time.' Let's not forget Latin heri 'yesterday' and hesternus 'of yesterday,' the founder of French hier and several other words for 'yesterday' in the Romance languages.