Leaves Dappled With Sunlight

Beech leaves dappled by sunlight
Beech leaves at the Botanic Garden in Cambridge

The etymology of ‘dappled’ (from etymonline)

dappled (adj.)
“spotted, marked with roundish spots of different colors or shades,” early 15c., probably from a Scandinavian source akin to Old Norse depill “spot,” Norwegian dape “puddle, splash of water.” Or perhaps a back-formation from, or merger with, Middle English adjective dapple-gray “apple-gray” (late 14c.), used first of a horse, based on resemblance to the markings on an apple (compare Old Norse apalgrar “dapple-gray”).

How nice to think that dapple may be a back-formation from apple.


  1. reb says:

    Interesting! Always when I see reference to ‘old Norse’ I try to think about what the word would be in Swedish. In this case I can’t find any connection … the Swedish word for ‘dappled’ is ‘spräcklig’.

    Now that I start to think about this, and the little cog wheels in my head start moving, the word ‘apelkastad’ comes to mind … it’s the word for a certain grey horse colour. What ever does grey has to do with apples?


    1. spräcklig makes me think of the English word ‘speckled’. You reminded me that in English there are dapple grey horses. The same thing?


  2. reb says:

    Yes, spräcklig is speckled and so are the dapple grey horses.

    Liked by 1 person

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