Social Question

john65pennington's avatar

How did the word "car" become associated with an automobile?

Asked by john65pennington (29235points) October 16th, 2011

There are many words that can associate one item as being the same thing. Example: the word dollars. When buying gasoline, we say “five bucks on pump no. 3”. Question: how did the word “car” become associated with the word automobile??

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12 Answers

ucme's avatar

There are probably more definitions, but the one I recall is the latin words carrus/carrum which mean wheeled vehicle.

gailcalled's avatar

Here’s as good an explanation as any.

“car ”

c.1300, “wheeled vehicle,” from O.N.Fr. carre, from L. carrum, carrus (pl. carra), originally “two-wheeled Celtic war chariot,” from Gaulish karros (cf. Welsh carr “cart, wagon,” Breton karr “chariot”), from PIE *krsos, from base *kers- “to run.” Extension to “automobile” is 1896. Car bomb first 1972, in reference to Northern Ireland.”

HungryGuy's avatar

I’m not 100% certain, so please don’t anyone flame me if I’m wrong, but I’ve always assumed that it’s short for “carriage.”

gailcalled's avatar

“Carriage” is a Johnny-come-lately. A useful site is

Lightlyseared's avatar

Motorised carriage – motorcar – car.

The carrus thing quite frankly sounds like a happy coincidence being applied to something in retrospect to appear clever.

gailcalled's avatar

^^ The really clever mistake is my confusing etymology with entomology.

mrrich724's avatar

I too thought it was a shortening of carriage.

njnyjobs's avatar

maybe the better question is how did the car become known as an automobile?

mrrich724's avatar

well that’s easy . . . auto for automatic, mobile meaning able to move freely.

njnyjobs's avatar

@mrrich724 easy to mess up?

Here’s what I found out:
Automobile – 1883, in reference to electric traction cars, from Fr. automobile (adj.), 1861, a hybrid from Gk. autos “self” + Fr. mobile “moving,” from L. mobilis “movable.” Noun meaning “self-propelled motor vehicle” is from 1895, from French, short for vĂ©hicule automobile. The modern Greek calls it autokineto “moved of itself.” The French word had competition in the early years from locomobile; in English other early forms were motorcar and autocar.

Oh, BTW, don’t even click on the link provided by @gailcalled, it seems to lead to a dubious site. Better to check out for reference.

gailcalled's avatar

@njnyjobs and everyone; the link I typed or mistyped is, indeed, suspect. What showed up was not my starting point.

Did anyone mention “horseless carriage”?

mrrich724's avatar

@njnyjobs what do you mean easy to mess up? You lost me . . .

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