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The Origins of the Word “Passenger”

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The history of the word passenger, meaning “someone on some sort of conveyance,” is a bit surprising. In the 1300s, a passager was the pilot of a ferry, not one of the other people on board. Later passager acquired what linguists call an intrusive N or parasitic N, and came to apply instead to the people being transported. A similar phonetic process gave us the words messenger, which was originally messager, and scavenger, originally scavager. This is part of a complete episode.

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