furnish

Definitions

General English

Commerce

  • verb to supply or to provide
  • verb to put furniture into an office or room

Construction

Publishing

  • noun a final mixture of the various substances from which paper is manufactured, formed of wood pulp, chemicals and water

Origin & History of “furnish”

Far apart as they may now seem, furnish is closely parallel in its development with frame. both originated as verbs based on from, in its earliest signification ‘forward movement, advancement, progress’. Frame was a purely English formation, but furnish goes back beyond that to prehistoric Germanic, where it was formed as *frumjan. This was borrowed into vulgar Latin as *fromīre, which in due course diversified to *formīre and *fornīre, the form adopted into Old French as furnir. Its lengthened stem furniss- provided English with furnish. To begin with this retained the ancestral sense ‘advance to completion, accomplish, fulfil’ (‘Behight (promise) no thing but that ye may furnish and hold it’, Melusine 1500). However, this died out in the mid 16th century, leaving the field clear for the semantic extension ‘provide’. The derivative furniture (16th c.) comes from French fourniture, but its main meaning, ‘chairs, tables, etc’, recorded from as early as the 1570s, is a purely English development (the majority of European languages get their word for ‘furniture’ from Latin mōbīle ‘movable’: French meubles, Italian mobili, Spanish muebles, German möbel, Swedish möbler, Dutch meubelen, Russian mebel’ – indeed, even middle English had mobles, though it retained the broader meaning ‘movable property’). By another route, Old French furnir has also given English veneer.
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