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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.


/ˈkɛtl/, /ˈkɛtəl/


1. A metal container in which to boil liquids, cook foods, etc.; pot.

2. A metal or plastic container with a handle and spout for boiling water

3. A large metal vessel designed to withstand high temperatures, used in various industrial processes such as refining and brewing

4. A teakettle.

5. A kettledrum.

6. Geology. Kettle hole. A depression in a glacial outwash drift made by the melting of a detached mass of glacial ice that became wholly or partly buried. When filled with water they are called kettle lakes. Most kettles are circular in shape because melting blocks of ice tend to become rounded; distorted or branching depressions may result from extremely irregular ice masses.


13th Century: From Old Norse ketill; related to Old English ketel, Old High German kezzil;  all ultimately from Latin catillus a little pot, from catīnus  pot. Replaced Old English cetil; which was also derived from Latin catillus leaving some disputes about the origin of the word.

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I’m currently doing some reading about turn-taking management systems in conversation analysis, so this definition has made me thirsty for a cuppa… And this post provides a very welcome break from some very flowery language.

There are some words which just sound amazing. I think /tl/ preceded by a vowel is a very bubbly sound, you can feel the word dancing around your mouth. This means that – for me – kettle and bottle and petal are in an ever-expanding list of “words that sound nice”.

The etymology of kettle makes this word even better.

The word catillus coming into the English language and developing into cetil makes sense; you can see how this would become kettle.

However, catillus also travelled to our friends the Scandinavians, and they brought it across in the form of the word ketill, which came across in the thirteenth century and displaced an extremely similar word.

What probably happened here was that there were two forms in one area, which coexisted for a while until people started to choose one over the other and the form which came via Norway won the fight.

Language is never easy to trace, except in very remote area where it hasn’t changed for many years; provided they have documentation of it. It’s these meandering journeys from Rome to England via many a country which give the English language it’s rich, varied, and yet changeable nature.

Having studied Geography in school, when I saw that my Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post was to be on kettle, one of the first things I thought of was out glaciation topic and that I always found the name kettle hole fascinating. You can see the idea behind calling a deep hollow in a mountain being named after a deep pan used in the kitchen; but the idea of something made by ice being named after something used to boil things always seemed quite ironic. This doesn’t stop the name kettle hole from being cute, though.

Now, who’s for a cuppa?