\ \ [14] As with many Indo-European tree-names, fir is a widespread term, but it does not mean the same thing wherever it occurs. Its prehistoric Indo-European ancestor was *perkos, which in Latin became quercus, the name for the ‘oak’.
\ \ Nor was the application confined to southern Europe, for Swiss German has a related ferchoak wood’. But by and large, the Germanic languages took the term over and applied it to the ‘pine’: German föhre, Swedish fura, and Danish fyr all mean ‘pine’. So also did Old English furh (known only in the compound furhwudupinewood’), but this appears to have died out. It was replaced semantically by pine, but formally by Middle English firre, a borrowing from the Old Norse form fyri- (also known only in compounds). This was used as a name not for the ‘pine’, but for the ‘fir’ (which in Old English times had been called sæppe or gyr).

Word origins - 2ed. . 2005.

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  • Fir — (f[ e]r), n. [Dan. fyr, fyrr; akin to Sw. furu, Icel. fura, AS. furh in furhwudu fir wood, G. f[ o]hre, OHG. forha pine, vereheih a sort of oak, L. quercus oak.] (Bot.) A genus ({Abies}) of coniferous trees, often of large size and elegant shape …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • fir — [ fɜr ] noun count a tall tree with thin sharp leaves that do not fall off in winter. It produces brown woody fruits called cones and can be called a fir or a fir tree. a. uncount the wood of a fir tree …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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  • fir — 14c.; O.E. had furhwudu pine wood, but the modern word is more likely from O.N. fyri fir or O.Dan. fyr, all from P.Gmc. *furkhon (Cf. O.H.G. foraha, Ger. Föhre fir ), from PIE root *perkos, originally oak (Cf. Skt. paraktah the holy fig tree,… …   Etymology dictionary

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  • fir — [fə: US fə:r] n [: Old English; Origin: fyrh] a tree with leaves shaped like needles that do not fall off in winter ▪ a fir tree …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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