Hawk vs. Hock
What’s the difference between the verbs hawk and hock? Both have associations with mercantile transactions, but the meanings and etymologies are distinct.
To hawk one’s wares is to sell them. The word has no relationship to the name of the raptor or to the extension of that term to refer to person who supports war; one might associate a hawker calling out to prospective buyers with the cry of a hawk, but the verb hawk and the noun hawker derive from the German word höker, meaning “to peddle.” However, hawk is also used as a verb to describe clearing the throat of phlegm; this sense derives from the bird’s harsh call.
To hock, by contrast, is to pawn one’s possessions — to give to a moneylender as security. (The person who hocks belongings then either repays the lender or forfeits the belongings, which the lender may then sell.) This word comes from the Dutch term hok, meaning “prison” or “enclosure”; the association is that someone who is in hock (in debt) is beholden to another as if he or she is a prisoner.
Hock, from the Middle English word hoch, meaning “heel,” has another meaning: It refers to the ankle of certain quadrupeds such as horses or the part of a bird’s leg corresponding to that part of the anatomy; by extension, it also applies to a cut of meat taken from just above an animal’s foot.
Among oenophiles, hoch also refers to German white wines; the name is a truncation of the city name Hochheim.
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