Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hôtel vs. Hôtel Particulier

Language lesson: Why are all those magnificent mansions all over Paris called “hotels?” Well, the French word hôtel (coming from “hôte,” meaning “guest”) originally referred to a city house that usually saw frequent visitors, not a place offering public accommodation. In contemporary usage, hôtel has the meaning of our English word “hotel,” and hôtel particulier is used for the old meaning. The French spelling, with the circumflex atop the “o,” was once also used in English, but is now rare. The circumflex replaces the “s” once preceding the “t” in the earlier "hostel" spelling, which over time received a new, but closely related meaning.

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