The Etymology of “Pedigree”

Pedigree was originally a 15th-century word meaning “genealogical table or chart.” It still holds the same meaning, but its contemporary use is typically more general—”ancestral line; lineage; ancestry”—and often refers to animal breeding.

It comes from the Old French phrase pied de gru, meaning “foot of a crane.” It was so called because in ancestral manuscripts, the word or concept “descent” was indicated by a small forked symbol that represented the branching lines of a genealogical chart—and it also looked like a bird’s footprint.

Side note: I discovered this oddly interesting etymology while looking up the word genealogy because I wondered why it diverged from most words with the -ology ending with its -alogy. Turns out it’s thanks to the Greek genea, “generation, descent.”

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