Tuesday, 9 September 2008

origin of the dog name Fido

We think of dogs as faithful companions; hence the use of the word 'Fido' as a generic term for domesticated dogs. Google Answers result for this name says that Fido was Abraham Lincoln's dog and because of Lincoln's celebrity status many people gave the same name to their dogs.

It certainly seems that Lincoln valued Fido, even though he couldn't take the dog with him to Washington.

I wondered why this name ended with the letter 'o' and then I recalled from my long-ago, short stint of learning Latin that this is a first-person verb ending. A site listing male names says it means 'I trust'. Hmm... who trusted whom? Did Lincoln name the dog because he trusted it, or did he believe his dog trusted him?

The University of Notre Dame Latin dictionary defines 'fido' as 'to trust, believe, confide in'. Okay, that's good - next time I find myself confiding my problems to my dog I won't feel embarrassed.

Etymology of First Names defines it as 'I am faithful'. Seems to me that's putting a slightly different emphasis on the relationship.

Eric Partridge, in Origins, A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, defines this name on page 197 as having probably come into English through the Italian word fido, meaning trusty.

So: we trust dogs
or we expect them to trust us.
Either way it's an important relationship.


Anonymous said...

This is my first visit to a blog. I recently gave my boyfriend a kitten that thinks she's a dog. Fetching and tail chasing are two examples. While kicking around names I suggested Fido. Before commiting to anything as permanent as a name I did some research and discoverd your site. I love knowledge in general but particualy word origins. I will be back! Thank you for the information.

parlance said...

Thanks for the comment. You've given me a bit of a wake-up call on this blog. I'd better get going again and write some new posts!

Anonymous said...

I found this blog looking for the origin of Fidoya. My grandmother (I am 66 now) always had a boston terrier female she would name Fidoya. So I named mine Fidoya. What I understood from my grandmother was Fido meant male dog and Fidoya meant Female dog. G'moms roots are Hassidic Dutch (?). It is nice to know a little more even though I cannot find Fidoya anywhere and supposedly there was always a dog in her family and they always used the name Fidoya for the females. This was supposed to be the norm for many generations. Anyone have any wisdom on that one?

parlance said...

Hi, thanks for the question about 'fidoya'. I had a look around the Net, but couldn't find anything. Do you know whether the ending 'oya' has a specific meaning?

Anonymous said...

It has been a while, my husband got sick and I was busy. Also, since I posted this I lost my Fidoya, she was 15. It will be a while before I get another, since I volunteer in BT rescue I will find the right one who needs me as much as I do her. Now, to answer your question: I was told Fido meant dog and with the "ya" it meant a female. Like Jon and Jonnette. I, too, have torn up the web looking for the name and have never found it. Maybe it is just a family tradition. I am sure it was never for just Bostons since they have not been around as long as I understand the name has been. But, I would love to know someone else would have this tradition.

parlance said...

Anonymous, I'm sorry to hear you lost Fidoya. I can understand why you'd wait until you're ready to give another dog a home. Thanks for the info about why your Fidoya had that name.