Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wordsmith: The Etymology of "Hustle"

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Loosely defined as energetic movement toward a goal, sometimes with an aim to deceive, ‘hustle’ has become a mainstay of the American sporting vernacular, now typically referring to the admirable quality of playing a game with scrap and urgency (see: Derek Jeter, David Eckstein). Through this modern meaning, ‘hustle’ has drifted far from its historic origins as a derivative from the name of 15th-century Czech heretic Jan Hus and his followers. Among other things, Hus was a vocal proponent of John Wycliffe’s teachings and freedom of preaching, also criticizing the Catholic Church’s use of indulgences a century before Martin Luther. Hus was excommunicated in 1411 and burned at the stake in 1415. While alive, Hus was noted for the energy with which he preached and attracted followers—called ‘Hussites’—to his heresy. The term ‘huseln’ developed in German describing enthusiastic movement or recruitment toward a malicious end, soon finding its way into English as ‘husel’ or, based on prevailing orthographic convention, ‘hustle.’


  1. Immensely interesting. It's a shame this blog is all but defunct now, I'm having a good time picking through the archives.