Online Encyclopedia

LOAF

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V16, Page 834 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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LOAF, properly the mass of bread made at one baking, hence the smaller portions into which the bread is divided for retailing. These are of uniform size (see BAKING) and are named according to shape (" tin loaf," " cottage loaf," &c.), weight ("quartern loaf," &c.), or quality of flour (" brown loaf," &c.). " Loaf," O.E. hldf, is a word common to Teutonic languages; cf. Ger. Laib, or Leib, Dan. lev, Goth. hlaifs; similar words with the same meaning are found in Russian, Finnish and Lettish, but these may have been adapted from Teutonic. The ultimate origin is unknown, and it is uncertain whether " bread " (q.v.) or " loaf " is the earlier in usage. The O.E. hlaf is seen in " Lammas " and in " lord," i.e. hlaford for hlafweard, the loaf-keeper, or " bread-warder "; cf. the O.E. word for a household servant hlaf-ceta, loaf-eater. The Late Lat. companio, one who shares, pans, bread, Eng. " companion," was probably an adaptation of the Goth. gahlaiba, O.H. Ger. gileipo, messmate, comrade. The word " loaf " is also used in sugar manufacture, and is applied to sugar shaped in a mass like a cone, a " Sugar-loaf," and to the small knobs into which refined sugar is cut, or " loaf-sugar." The etymology of the verb " to loaf," i.e. to idle, lounge about, and the substantive " loafer," an idler, a lazy vagabond, has been much discussed. R. H. Dana (Two Years before the Mast, 184o) called the word " a newly invented Yankee word." J. R. Lowell (Biglow Papers, and series, Introd.) explains it as German in origin, and connects it with laufen, to run, and states that the dialectical form lofen is used in the sense of " saunter up and down." This explanation has been generally accepted. The New English Dictionary rejects it, however, and states that laufen is not used in this sense, but points out that the German Landlaufer, the English obsolete word landlouper," or " landloper," one who wanders about the country, a vagrant or vagabond, has a resemblance in meaning. J. S. Farmer and W. E. Henley's Dictionary of Slang and its Analogues gives as French synonyms of " loafer," chevalier de la loupe and loupeur.
End of Article: LOAF
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