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Let’s start with words of The Bard, Rabbie Burns:

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass
So deep in luve am I,
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry
Burns also writes:
The best laid scheme o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley
Burns

Rabbie Burns, aka Robert Burns, aka The Bard, is shown above.

While the word “gang” in English today generally refers to the idea of a “group,” Burns is using a much older form of the word. In Old and Middle English, “gang” indicated the action of walking. The Old English verb “gangan” meant “to walk, to go” and the Old Norse noun “gangr” meant “walking, going.” In Scotland—keep in mind that Robert Burns was a Scotland’s favourite son—the Old Norse meaning of “gang” meaning “to go” has been retained.

The shift in meaning of “gang” from “going” to a “group” developed in Middle English. The idea of a gang was a group of people or animals who “go” together.

In the late nineteenth century, the word “gangster” evolved and referred to a member of a group of outlaws.

Other “gang” related words include:

Gangplank: a plank that provides a passage between a ship and a landing is based on the idea of walking or going along the plank.

Gangway: this refers to a passage, a way of going between two places.

Originally posted to Ojibwa on Sat Nov 10, 2012 at 08:25 AM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Pink Clubhouse, and Cranky Grammarians.

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