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The ‘Gazebo’ Mystery

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garden decor,garden features,garden structures,gazebos,pergolas

Did you know “gazebo” is one of only a few words in common use for which there is no known origin? Is that bizarre, or what?

“Gazebo” first appeared in 1752 to describe what we all know gazebos to be – a roundish, roofed freestanding structure with a 360-degree open-air view – but even etymologists don’t know where the name originated or how it came to replace many other established names for the same kind of structure.

Gazebos were also called belvederes (interesting), pergolas (now something different) and rotundas (kinda boring) among many other things. What's strange is that all of these words were available and in use in the 16th century – so why drum up a new name at all?

Cedar Gazebo "I shall call it ... a Zizzleblart! No, no. Gazebo!"

Some etymologists believe the word stems from the English word gaze, to which is added the Latin suffix –ebo to suggest a point from which one looks out. But, that’s just a guess! Nobody knows if it’s correct. And, it also doesn’t explain why the first person to jot the word down, one William Halfpenny, used it instead of any number of other words he had at his disposal.

Many believed it was a word of Chinese origin, since Halfpenny first used it in a book about Asian structures that were new to England, but it was later discovered that the word did not have roots in any Asian language. Stumped again!

So, all we’re really left with is the word – gazebo. It’s a pretty cool word that describes an even cooler garden feature. It’s got a lot of history and even more mystery, and now you can use your newfound knowledge to wax philosophical about your landscaping when you have guests over for fancy garden parties.

Feel free to write in and tell us if you know the secret origin of the word gazebo and whether this is what you call that open-air roofed thingy in your backyard.

The Gazebo Penguin solarium measures 12 ft. x 12 ft. and features left- or right-opening doors and sliding wind panels to allow for maximum air circulation. 

The "Bayside" from Outdoor Living Today is a work of art in Western Red Cedar that measures 10 feet in diameter and features a two-tiered functional cupola.

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