Concerning a certain lexicographic myth: the case of coqueluche

2016. № 3 (9), 433-447

Lomonosov Moscow State University


The present paper deals with the history of the French word coqueluche. The author criticizes the tradition of lexicographic description of the word in the French dictionaries of the 16th-21th cc. That tradition implies that the word coqueluche has two different meanings, between which no semantic connection can be established, ‘coqueluche’ (name of disease) and ‘everybody’s favorite, star’. The etymological information found in dictionaries do not imply the polysemy of that kind as well, because the initial meaning of the word is to be reconstructed as ‘headdress’. The author proposes a new approach to explaining the phenomenon: instead of polysemy of the word coqueluche one should speak about the homonymy of three different words, appeared about one and the same time. Two of them, coqueluche(on) ʿheaddressʾ and coqueluche ʿcoquelucheʾ, had arisen in the 15th c., while the third one had arisen in the 16th c. The former homonym can be associated with Latin cuclullus, while the latter two are evidently motivated by the noun ‘coq’ which has numerous connotations. The paper is based upon historico-semantic and etymological approaches. The great number of lexicographic facts as well as numerous documents on the history of medicine and the history of clothing were collected and used in the paper.