egg

Definitions

General English

Agriculture

  • noun a fertilised ovum of an animal such as a bird, fish, reptile, amphibian or insect, protected by a membrane layer in which the embryo continues developing outside the mother’s body until it hatches
  • noun a round object laid by female birds, with a hard calcareous shell forming a case containing albumen and yolk. The young bird grows inside the egg until it hatches.

Food

  • A most important food item both for its nutritive and texturizing properties. Most eggs have a hard shell made of calcium carbonate, an inner membrane, an air pocket at one end between the membrane and the shell, a central yellow to orange yolk supported by two filaments and a surrounding transparent white. In fertilized eggs the embryo is seen as a small blood spot at the edge of the yolk. Hen’s eggs are the most common food item, but duck eggs and quail’s eggs are available.

Medical

  • noun a reproductive cell produced in the female body by an ovary, and which, if fertilised by the male sperm, becomes an embryo
  • noun an egg with a hard shell, laid by a hen or other bird, which is used for food

Travel

  • noun an oval object with a hard shell, produced by a female bird from which a baby bird comes
  • noun an egg produced by a domestic hen, the type of egg most commonly used as food for humans

Origin & History of “egg”

English has two distinct words egg, but surprisingly the noun, in the form in which we now have it, has not been in the language as long as the verb. Egg ‘reproductive body’ (14th c.) was borrowed from Old Norse egg. Old English had a related word, ǣg, which survived until the 16th century as eye (plural eyren). Although it does not begin to show up in the written records until the 14th century, the form egg was presumably introduced into English by Norse immigrants considerably earlier, but even so, as late as the end of the 15th century there was still considerable competition between the native eye and the imported egg: ‘What sholde a man in thyse dayes now wryte, egges or eyren, certaynly it is harde to playse every man’, William Caxton, Eneydos 1490. both the Old English and the Old Norse forms came from a prehistoric Germanic *ajjaz (source also of German and Dutch ei). this in turn was a descendant of an Indo-European *ōwo- (whence Greek ōión, Latin ōvum, French oeuf, Italian uovo, Spanish huevo, and Russian jajco), which was probably derived ultimately from a base signifying ‘bird’ (source of Sanskrit vís and Latin avis ‘bird’, the ancestor of English aviary).

Egg ‘incite’ (10th c.), as in ‘egg on’, is a Scandinavian borrowing too. It comes from Old Norse eggja, which was a relative or derivative of egg ‘edge’ (a cousin of English edge).
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