Flinguistics! The etymology of fireworksNov 02, 2022
The Catherine Wheel
The Catherine wheel is a type of spinning pinwheel firework with a bit of a sinister background. Apparently St Catharine suffered martyrdom upon a wheel with sharp hooks protruding around the edges of the tyre...ouch!
The Roman Candle
A Roman candle is a cylindrical firework that shoots sparks and fireballs up in the air. The name possible refers to the way that fireworks technology travelled via the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire from China, where it originated.
A girandole or girandola is a firework that spirals, like the Italian word it derives its name from: "girandola" means "little revolving jet". The original Latin word gyrare gives us other words in English too, including "gyre" (used by WB Yeats in his poem, The Second Coming) and "girandole" – a type of candlestick.
Can you guess how the whizbang, got its name? Yep, it's onomatopoetic, and it makes a whizzing sound before going BANG! World War I artillery shells also got nicknamed whizzbangs, incidentally, as the whizz sounded a warning to take cover.
A petard is rather cheekily named after the French word, pétard...and péter means to fart! It's a loud firecracker type of firework. Can you see the link?!
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