Essays on Kite Word Origin and Patents

Ed Grauel
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To the best of present knowledge, the word “kite” stems from the Old English “cyta,” meaning a bird of prey of the hawk family and distinguished by long pointed wings and a forked tail. The bird was also called a “glade” in England and was fairly common there during the Middle Ages.

According to Clive Hart, the first use of the word “kite” in print to represent a heavier-than-air craft, designed to fly on a tether line, was in 1635 in a book called Pyrotechnia by J. Babington. Since the word was used without any explanation, it may be assumed that it was familiar in England for some time before this date. Between l430, when the first full description of a flying object was rendered in English, until l635, it had been variously called “flag,” “flying dragon,” “comet,” “flying sail,” and “drake.”

A few languages, other than English, also use some type of bird to represent what we call a kite, but a translation of the word “dragon” is the most common designation.

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