Skip to main content

Etymology lesson: park

Note: This post was edited on Jan. 20, 2007. Hotlinked image(s) were removed. Follow the link(s) to the image location(s). The park is at the center of the neighborhood unit as articulated by urban designers from Clarence Perry to Andres Duany. Given the centrality of this urban space, I felt it was important to know the history of the word "park." The Online Etymology Dictionary is one of my favorite etymological resources. The following information is from the Online Etymology Dictionary: search park.
park (n.)
c.1260, "enclosed preserve for beasts of the chase," from O.Fr. parc, probably ult. from W.Gmc. *parruk "enclosed tract of land" (cf. O.E. pearruc, root of paddock (2), O.H.G. pfarrih "fencing about, enclosure," Ger. pferch "fold for sheep," Du. park). Internal evidence suggests the W.Gmc. word is pre-4c. and originally meant the fencing, not the place enclosed.
Found also in M.L. parricus "enclosure, park" (8c.), which is likely the direct source of the O.Fr. word, as well as It. parco, Sp. parque, etc. Some claim the M.L. word as the source of the W.Gmc., but the reverse seems more likely. OED discounts notion of a Celtic origin. Welsh parc, Gael. pairc are from English.
As a surname, Parker "keeper of a park" is attested in Eng. from c.1145. Meaning "enclosed lot in or near a town, for public recreation" is first attested 1663, originally in ref. to London; the sense evolution is via royal parks in the original, hunting sense being overrun by the growth of London and being opened to the public.
Applied to sporting fields in Amer.Eng. from 1867. New York's Park Avenue as an adj. meaning "luxurious and fashionable" (1956) was preceded in the same sense by London's Park Lane (1880).
1: A-Park, Radburn, NJ; based on the neighborhood unit,
designed by Clarence Stern and Henry Wright 2: Lake Carolina Central Green, Richland County, SC, designed by Duany Plater-Zyberk