Simon, Your comment first brought to mind the Gambino (small leg?) mafioso crime family.
That’s a very interesting thought, though, which inspires me to check a bit further. What it looks like to me is that this ‘gamb**’ thing has French, Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, Germanic, Latin and maybe even originally Greek (‘kampe’ bend) connections.
Also made me curious about GAMBIT which does have the Italian leg connection and the idea of tripping might be a further connection.. GAMBOL also gave further insight.
GAMBIT noun 1. Chess. An opening move in which a player seeks to obtain(trip up) their opponent and gain some advantage by sacrificing a piece. 2. any maneuver in which one seeks to gain an advantage [1650–60; from French, which was from the Spanish ‘gambito’ or Italian ‘gambetto’ (akin to Old French ‘gambet’, ‘jambet’), equivalent to ‘gamb(a)’ leg + ‘-etta’ -et]
GAMB or GAMBE noun: leg shank (used chiefly in heraldry) [[I don’t quite get this connection to heraldry??]] [French dialect (northern) ‘gambe’ leg, from Old North French, from Late Latin ‘gamba,’ ‘camba’ hock (of a horse), leg * more at GAMBOL
GAMBOL noun (also verb) [Etymology: earlier ‘gambolde,’ ‘gambalde,’ modification of Middle French ‘gambade’ spring of a horse, gambol, probably from (assumed) Old Provencal ‘gambada,’ ‘cambada’ (whence Provencal ‘gambado,’ ‘cambado’), from Old Provencal ‘camba’ leg, from Late Latin ‘gamba,’ ‘camba’ hock (of a horse), leg, modification of Greek ‘kampe’ ‘bend ‘ more at CAMP
Simon, this gets interestinger and interestinger:
CAMP noun: a place of temporary shelter [Etymology: Middle French, probably from Old North French or Old Provencal, from Latin ‘campus’ plain, field; akin to Old High German ‘hamf’ crippled, Gothic ‘hamfs’ maimed, Greek ‘kamp’ bend, turning, Lithuanian ‘kampas’ corner, region; basic meaning: bend; hence, concavity, depression]
You know, I’m no etymologist (physics is my game). But if the ‘gamb,’ ‘gambe,’ ‘game,’ ‘camp,’ etc., ‘hamfs,’ ‘kamp’ are really related, which it sort of appears to my amateur eye that they are, we’ve got ‘crippled’ from ~ the 11th century ( Old High German) and ‘maimed’ from about the 4th century A.D. (Goths), and the Greek ‘kamp’ from even earlier, which all predate any of the proposed etymologies mentioned (in the dictionary guesses) and which would also do away with the official ‘origin unknown.’ Also, would be a much more direct connection to the ‘game’ in ‘game leg’!! But, I probably don’t know what I am talking about, and there is more to it than that – like are these equivalencies real and where did the word go in the intervening centuries?
Ken – November 22, 2002
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)