An oft-asked question I am asked is, “How does one spell cuckoo clock?” Even educated folks, with some embarrassment, ask. It sure doesn’t sound like it is spelled. And it isn’t a word commonly used in our culture.
That’s why, when people are looking for a cuckoo clock, many search “coo coo clock.” That is after all how it sounds.
Take heart. Here’s Dictionary.com’s wisdom on the origin of the word. Note that most languages spell it in some form close to what we geuss is right.
1200-50; Middle English cuc(c)u, cuccuk(e ) (imitative); compare Latin cucūlus, French coucou, German Kuckuk, Dutch koekoek, Modern Greek koûko
So why is it spelled “cuckoo”?
Origin of cuckoo
To find put why we spell the work in such an non-phoenetic manner, let’s go back in time.
With its origins in Germany, the cuckoo clock was named after the cuckoo bird, Kuckuckvogel. “Vogel” means bird and of course “Kuckcuk” is the name for the cuckoo bird in Germany.
Therefore it makes sense that in German the cuckoo clock is “kuckucksuhren” with “uhren” meaning clock.”Now, looking again at the spellings above, one can easily see how we could end up with “Cuckoo.” Still, thank goodness for Google and spellcheck!
‘Kuckuck’ in Other Languages
British English: cuckoo /ˈkʊkuː/ noun A cuckoo is a grey bird which makes an easily recognizable sound consisting of two quick notes.
- American English: cuckoo
- Arabic: وَقْواق
- Brazilian Portuguese: cuco
- Chinese: 杜鹃
- Croatian: kukavica
- Czech: kukačka
- Danish: gøg
- Dutch: koekoek
- European Spanish: cuclillo
- Finnish: käki
- French: coucou
- German: Kuckuck
- Greek: κούκος
- Italian: cuculo
However it is spelled, here at the American Cuckoo Clock Company we are under the spell of these charming boxes of joy!