Yep, ‘dog’. It’s one of the first words we try to teach children when they begin to read. It’s a simple word, no silent letters, no weird pronunciation rules [they can wait for -ough words til next week!], and it’s a word for something they can easily recognise. Four-legged creature, not a cat.
So what on earth is interesting about the word ‘dog’? Well, quite a lot as it happens. We have absolutely no idea where the word originated or how it came to mean ‘four-legged creature, not a cat’. If you have an hour or so, you could go to the OED and read up on the word’s fascinating etymology…no, wait, it doesn’t seem to have one. You could look in other languages for their similar words for ‘four -legged creature, not a cat’. No, wait, there are none. Hmmmmmmm.
We get the word ‘cat’ [Four legged creature, not a dog] from clear routes via Greek Katta, later Latin had Catta, Old French had Cat and modern French has Chat. Nice and easy to get the picture, isn’t it? Dog on the other hand….Latin Canis, German Hund French Chien…none of them very ‘dog’-like, are they?
If you really want to see the official theories from the OED, I have pasted a brief section below; but I reckon I know the real origin of the word:
Saxon no 1: Be that yer hog? [This is authentically, honestly how they talked….trust me, I’m a Time-Lord]
Saxon no 2: No, it be a different creature. It be having 4 legs, but it’s not a hog.
Saxon no 1: Ooooh, be it maybe a cat?
Saxon no 2: No, I not be thinking that, it’s too friendly-like. Seems to like people, bit like hogs.
Saxon 1: Arrrrr, so it b’ain’t a cat, and it b’ain’t a hog….what be it?
Saxon 2: It sure b’ain’t a cat, it’s more b’ain’t a hog…I reckon I’ll call it a bog.
Saxon 1: Bog…I like that there name…only b’ain’t that the name of that muddy grassy field yonder?
Saxon 2: FORK! [this word later evolved when they invented eating implements]. Bat? Hat? Cog?…
The debate continued over many a horn of ale…which is how the aforementioned four-legged creatures, not cats came to be known as…
The etymology of the English word is unknown. No likely cognates have been identified with a meaning at all close to that of the English word, and all attempted etymological explanations are extremely speculative. A word of this phonological shape is hard to explain as a regular development from a Germanic base, but nonetheless a number of attempts have been made. One attempt sees a connection with the Germanic base of dow v.1, assuming an original meaning such as ‘useful or faithful animal’, but this has not met with general acceptance. In this connection an Old English personal name Dycga is sometimes compared as a possible formal parallel from the same base, but it is quite possible that the personal name has no connection with dog n.1 Another attempted etymology takes the word ultimately from the Indo-European base probably meaning ‘run’ which is probably reflected by Sanskrit dhav- (see prothetely n.), but this poses a number of formal difficulties. Another suggestion is that the word shows a development from an Indo-European base meaning ‘to be or become unconscious’, but this involves a very large number of unattested stages in the semantic development (assuming a development ‘bundle’ > ‘cuddly bundle’ > ‘pet’ > ‘dog’), and also involves a very uncertain original base form.
And this is only a very small extract from the entry…..thanks OED!