What is the word drone derived from?

From Middle English drounen (“roar, roar”), from Proto-Germanic *drunnjan, from Proto-Germanic *drunjanā (“roar, roar, make a sound), from Proto-Indo-European *der- (“roar, buzz, hum). This English word comes from the Germanic train (drone), from the word drunjus. Drunjus was used in the Gothic period (noise) and from the Greek “threnos” (funeral song). When the word appeared in Old English (spelled dran or dræn), it referred to a male whose main function was to impregnate a fertile queen bee.

In Middle English, the noun “drone” took the figurative meaning of “non-worker”; a sloth, a sloth, a sloth, according to the OED. In Sapian terminology, a “worker bee” is a generally sterile female that laboriously collects pollen for the hive. None of the quotes from the OED specifically mentions the sound of bees, although a commentary by Samuel Johnson published in 1751 in The Rambler refers to insects “that torment us with their drones or their bites”. The first example in the dictionary of the meaning “drone you're asking about” comes from a 1946 newspaper article cited in the magazine American Speech.

Why did the Navy choose the word “drone” to refer to an unmanned aircraft? It seems to us that “drone” is more suitable than “Queen Bee” for a remote controlled vehicle. Some etymologists have speculated that the verb “drone” may have influenced the use of the noun “drone” to refer to an unmanned aircraft, perhaps because of the buzzing of fixed-wing aircraft. However, we haven't found any evidence to support this. When the verb appeared in the early 16th century, it meant to emit a humming or monotonous buzz, as well as to act slowly or lazily.

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The first time the use of an unmanned aerial system was in 1849, when hot air balloons loaded with explosives began to be used in the war. The prevailing winds swept the balloons to the target area, where they fell and released the payload. There is no doubt that a word used for a quarter of a century will have more definitions, and in the early 1960s, the definition of “unmanned aircraft” went from being an aerial target used by British forces in World War II to a word that could be retroactively applied to the German V-1, an air target used by British forces in World War II.

Colton Morford
Colton Morford

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