Thursday, January 08, 2004


At some point over the Christmas break the question as to the origin and development of the word 'mall,' as meaning a shopping centre, came up in conversation. I resolved to look into the matter once I got back to Montreal as I own a copy of the Shorter OED (which is actually not so short).

It seems the word 'mall' as a noun first came into use in middle English derrived from the middle English noun 'maul' which at the time referred to "a massive hammer." The middle English noun 'maul' was derrived from the Latin malleus. The verb form of 'maul' meant the action of striking with the object 'maul,' hence our modern definition of that word.

The middle Enlish noun 'maul' then developed into the middle english noun 'mall' meaning a mallet or hammer. By the mid-17th century the noun 'mall' came to mean alternately the hammer specifically used in the game 'pall-mall', the game 'pall-mall' itslef, or an alley used for the game of 'pall-mall.'

Incidentally the game of 'pall-mall' was played in a long alley, in which players tried to drive a boxwood ball through a suspended iron ring in as few strokes as possible.

The mid-17th century meaning of 'mall' as the place in which 'pall-mall' was played developed, by the late 17th century, to mean a sheltered walk serving as a promenade. The original one of these was the Mall, a walk bordered by trees in St. James Park, London.

By the mid-20th century this meaning developed into our modern understanding of the noun 'mall' meaning a shopping centre. By the late 20th century 'malling' was used as a verb referring to both the development of shopping malls or the activity of passing time in a shopping mall.

So there. Don't say you never learned anything reading my blog.

Posted by Matthew @ 2:38 a.m.