Discuss word origins and meanings.
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Post by hsargent » Wed Jan 01, 2014 10:30 pm

Another triad of usages with no relationship to one another.

Bust....a woman's bosom

Bust...a bronze head (or other medium)

Bust...a failure.

Origin of BUST
French buste, from Italian busto, from Latin bustum tomb
First Known Use: 1645
Signature: Harry Sargent

Re: Bust

Post by Erik_Kowal » Thu Jan 02, 2014 9:47 am

The online Merriam-Webster doesn't define bust as it relates to a sculpture the same way you do:
1 : a sculptured representation of the upper part of the human figure including the head and neck and usually part of the shoulders and breast [My emphasis]
2 : the upper part of the human torso between neck and waist; especially : the breasts of a woman
So according to Merriam-Webster, there is a clear connection between 1) and 2). However, MW does agree with the derivation you cited for these senses of bust.

The same dictionary gives the following derivation for bust in the sense of a failure (among other similar senses of the word):
alteration of burst
First Known Use: 1806
The origin of burst is stated to be the following;
Middle English bersten, from Old English berstan; akin to Old High German brestan to burst
First Known Use: before 12th century
So here we have two words that are spelled and spoken identically, but appear to be otherwise unrelated (it's what is known as a homonym). Note also that the ultimate derivation for the head/breast connotation is Latin, whereas the word for the failure-related connotation is ultimately derived from a Germanic source.

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