Degree / Pedigree

The connection of “pedigree” to “degree” is not direct, but “pedigree” is interesting in its own right. On Medieval genealogical charts the lines indicating descent (by “degree,” of course) were, unlike on our modern charts, not horizontal and vertical but usually slanting or curved. Such charts (and later the degrees of relation they depicted) were known as “pied de grue” in Old French, meaning literally “crane’s foot,” because the branching, slanting lines resembled the footprint of a large bird. Once “pedigree” had entered English in the 15th century as “pedagrew” or “pedigrue,” its close association with “degree” in the genealogical sense (as well as the similarity in sound of “digrue” to “degree”) led to “pedigrue” slowly changing its spelling to “pedigree.”

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