The Hidden Power of Words: ‘Chore’

posted in: Language 0

chore | ch ôr|
a routine task, esp. a household one


Today’s Word: Chore

Common Phrases and Usage in American English: “I have to finish all my household chores for tonight, then I can treat myself to some ice cream!” “Preparing those monthly reports at work is such a chore!”

My Take on the Definition and Guess as to the Origin: We usually refer to a chore as a form of work that is typically something mundane and basic. I guess that the origin of the word is in basic no-frills work. You know, all those non-glamorous errands and the stuff that “you just gotta do.”

Drumroll Please:

ORIGIN mid 18th cent. (originally dialect and U.S.): variant of obsolete char or chare (see charwoman).

Hmm, I wouldn’t have thought that this word had recent origins in the U.S. Let’s take a look at the word ‘charwoman.’

charwoman |ˈ ch ärˌwoŏmən|
noun ( pl. -women) Brit., dated
a woman employed to clean houses or offices.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from obsolete char or chare [a turn of work, an odd job, chore] (obscurely related to chore ) + woman.

There you have it! From Britain to the U.S., those obsolete words of char or chare rear their heads from the history books to let us know that indeed ‘chore’ is some sort of boring, routine, dull work. I wasn’t too far off in my guess of the origin of ‘chore.’

When is something never a chore? When it’s something you actually like doing, I suppose. I wonder if there’s a joyful equivalent to ‘chore?’ I might just have to do some research on that. Regardless, I have a sneaking suspicion that the word “chore” will be around for some time.

Note: Dictionary used for definitions and references is The New Oxford American Dictionary, Version 2.2.3 (118.5), Apple Inc., Copyright 2005-2011

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Rashelle Isip is a New York City-based professional organizer and productivity consultant who helps people get organized so they can stress less, have more fun, and be happier at home. Her work has been featured in Good Housekeeping, Fast Company, Cosmopolitan, The Washington Post, Business Insider, and The Atlantic. Get access to her free guide, 10 Simple Ways to Make Your To-Do Lists More Effective, by clicking here.
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