What’s The Word – Behind the Word “Junk”

Being in the junk removal services business, every now and then we have to wonder, “where did this junk come from?” More specifically, where did the word “junk” come from? The word “junk” defined is:

1.) Any old or discarded material, as metal, paper, or rags.
2.) Anything that is regarded as worthless, meaningless, or contemptible; trash. Photo of an old ship
Once we started digging, it turns out there’s a pretty interesting history regarding the word junk. The Middle English word jonk origianlly had a very specific meaning in nautical terms. First recorded in 1353, it meant “an old cable or rope.” On a ship it made little sense to throw away useful material, since long amounts of time would pass before one could get new supplies on board. Old cable was used in a variety of ways, including fenders to hang on the side of the ship to protect it from scraping against other ships or docking areas.
Over time, junk came to refer to this old cable as well. The big leap in meaning taken by the word seems to have occurred when junk was applied to discarded but useful material in general. This extension may also have taken place in a nautical context, for the earliest, more generalized use of junk is found in the compound junk shop, referring to a store where old materials from ships were sold. Junk has gone on to mean useless waste as well.
Further still, the word junk has taken on many slang connotations, and it’s now used in a variety of colorful ways. As junk purists, we’re fond of the original definition, and maintain the perspective that junk is not always junk. Sometimes, it can be recycled and re-used in a variety of ways, becoming useful once more. For all your needs regarding junk removal services, don’t hesitate to contact Mr Junk – the true junk purists!
Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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