Youth hostel words and how they evolve

I love words. Not surprising. I wouldn’t write if I didn’t and I love the etymology of words. I love finding out where words come from.

The word hostel is an old one. It pops up in a translation of Genesis and Exodus from 1250 and in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in about 1390.

It has different levels of meaning. A hostel is a place of sojourn, a house where one lodges. It’s also a public house of lodging and entertainment and then it is also an equivalent of youth hostel.

The Oxford English Dictionary records it in use as an equivalent for youth hostel for the first time in an article from The Times of London 21 January 1931. “The Youth Hostels Association… It is hoped that this summer there will be 50 hostels where… a night’s lodging may be obtained.”

That was a busy time in youth hostel history. As well as The Times article, a London region was launched and GM Trevleyan made a radio broadcast.

The word continues to be a synonym for youth hostel and I use it too, interchangeably, as and when I like.

It also works as a verb and surprisingly that use of the word is very old too.

I thought that hostelling was a new term but it isn’t. Its first use dates from as early as 1460 though the OED categorises the word as dialect and doesn’t include the youth hostel use of the word to hostel, or hostelling.

I love the way words are made and remade, recycled and reused.

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