Four Pretty Bows

Yves Saint Laurent's exuberant bow, circa the 1980s.

I was wondering this morning about all the different forms of the word ‘bow.’ To bow as a verb, as in ‘to bend the body,’ comes from the proto-Germanic root bugon, as does the archer’s bow, in that it forms an arch, as did the original bows wielded by violin players. The looped knot, fashion’s bow, was known as such since the 1540s, and follows the movement of the other two. (It comes from the Germanic bogen.) And, while the bow of a ship doesn’t seem to be related etymologically, it too follows the same shape.

So that that ties it all up nicely with a bow, no?