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trek (trĕk)
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intr.v. trekked, trek·king, treks
1. To make a slow or arduous journey.
2. To journey on foot, especially to hike through mountainous areas.
3. South African To travel by ox wagon.
n.
1. A journey or leg of a journey, especially when slow or difficult.
2. South African A journey by ox wagon, especially a migration such as that of the Boers from 1835 to 1837.

[Afrikaans, to travel by ox wagon, from Dutch trekken, to travel, from Middle Dutch trecken, to pull.]

trekker n.

Word History: In South Africa in the 1800s, a common way of talking about the length of an overland journey was not in miles but in treksthe original meaning of the word trek in English was "a day of traveling by ox cart, one stage in a journey by ox cart." (Transport in the vast spaces of colonial South Africa was often by ox cart, as it was on the Great Plains of the United States during the 1800s, too.) Trek comes from Afrikaans, the language of South Africa that descends from the dialects spoken by the Dutch settlers in the region. The British took control of the Cape Colony of the Dutch in 1806, and eventually the descendants of the Dutch settlers, called the Boers, left the Cape Colony because of economic problems, conflict with the Xhosa, and discontent with British colonial authorities, who had forbidden the slave trade and postulated the equality of whites and nonwhites. From 1835 to 1843, more than 10,000 Boers, the Voortrekkers ("The Foretrekkers"), traveled north and northeast as part of the Groot Trek ("Great Trek") and established independent Afrikaans-speaking states that were eventually incorporated into the British Empire and became part of the modern nation of South Africa. As British settlers arrived in the South African colonies in the 19th century and British influence in the region grew, many Afrikaans words entered the English of South Africa. Eventually, in the 1900s, trek began to be used in other varieties of English with the meaning "a journey or leg of a journey, especially when slow or difficult."

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
 

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.

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