Mona Lisa, we louvre you
NOT only does the Louvre in Paris house that great enigma the Mona Lisa, the gallery's name is itself enigmatic. One Dan Esmond writes: "I would just love to know the meaning and origins of the name Louvre (the French Museum). As far as I know, it is not the name of a person."
Here goes with some supposition: the English word louvre (spelt louver in the US) now means a slat, usually of glass, and it has come to us from the Middle English lover, meaning a skylight or chimney, which came from the Old French lovier.
Some dictionaries end here, with "origin unknown" but others trace lovier to the Middle Dutch love, meaning gallery, and others link the word to the Old Norse lobt, from which has come the English loft, and to the word lobby.
So my suggestion is that the Parisian Louvre took its name from an old word for gallery. Any experts who care to destroy this argument should form an orderly queue on the left.
First in the queue is Marie-Andree Dionne who writes: As far as I recall, the name of Louvre comes from "loup" (wolf). Note that a female "loup" is called a "louve". The word comes from the latin lupus, i (fem. lupa, ae). This very ancient palace is, say the ancient charts, build on the site of an ancien wood infested by wolves from which it took its name. See also the French term louvraie (Wolves place). I had that confirmed by two knowledgeable French teachers, but I did not find yet an academic reference, book or article, so I (seek) a proper reference. Until then, you'll have only my word on it...
Thanks, Marie-Andree. Any advance on "wolf"?
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