Wednesday, 14 December 2016
One of my brothers suggested that I look into this word. Given that we know about henchmen, we both wondered if one can hench? What might henching be?
Turns out that this somewhat derogatory word for a criminal's faithful follower comes from the Middle English word, hengest (a male horse) + man. The word henchman fell into disuse in England but was kept in Scotland as "the personal attendant of a Highland chief." Then in the early 1800s the word took on the sense of an obedient, unscrupulous fellow. This negative sense was probably a misunderstanding and a gradual changing of the word, as happens in every language and every time.
So, horses or no horses, if you're up to no good, you might just want to take on a henchman. I understand that they're very loyal.