Magazine

I often write about false friends and various other confusing words for learners of English. But one of my recent French lessons reminded me of a word that often confuses Anglophone learners of French: magasin.

You might know that this is the French word for shop. Of course though, many people assume it to be the French for magazine (which is actually just magazine). Thinking about the word again, I wondered if there were a link between the two.

It seemed likely, given how similar they are, and it turns out that that is the case. Both magasin and magazine can be traced back to the Arabic makhazin (storehouses). How this came to be magasin isn’t surprising, especially if you’ve read what I wrote previously about the words store and shop. But why magazine?

As usual, once you see all the steps, it makes sense. The first magazine, Gentleman’s Magazine, was published in 1731. It got its name from the word’s earlier use to refer to lists of military stores and information, but might also have been a figurative use of the word, referring to the publication as a storehouse of information.

And this military link takes us to a less-common use of the word. What do you call that device that stores bullets and slots into a gun? Why a magazine, of course!

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