Tracking the “Fangle” in “Newfangled”

By Maeve Maddox

Until I saw the word “fangled” used humorously in a couple of blogs, I’d never given any thought to the elements of newfangled.

Can something be “oldfangled,” or just plain “fangled”?

Come to find out, the “fangled” part of newfangled is a fossil from Old English.

For those of you unfamiliar with the word, the meaning usually understood by newfangled is

Newly or recently invented or existent, novel; gratuitously or objectionably modern or different from what one is used to. –OED

Ex. My grandmother refuses to use anything so newfangled as a cell phone.

The word newfangled, with the sense of “addicted to novelty/ready to grasp at new things,” is first recorded about 1470. The sense “lately come into fashion” occurs in 1533.

The Old English verb fon (to capture, seize, take) had the past participle form gefangen.

Not only does this old verb give us the “fangle” in newfangled, it gives us the word fang. with the sense of “sharp tooth.” Makes sense: something with fangs can seize with them.

NOTE: Another O.E. word, fengto, meant a “catching- or grasping-tooth.”

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5 Responses to “Tracking the “Fangle” in “Newfangled””

  • Alex

    Well, ‘fangen’ means in German ‘to catch’ and its participle is still ‘gefangen’ 🙂

  • dtli

    There’s a similar thing with ‘disgruntled’ – can you ever be ‘gruntled’?

  • Grace S.

    An “anfangen” in German means “begin,” doesn’t it?

  • Maria Cypher

    I will always associate the word with Pringles potato chips, which were introduced back in the 70s as “Pringles Newfangled Potato Chips”.

  • minerva

    huh. The more you know! Thanks for sharing, I’ve never thought about that!

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