This is another case in English where we have one word from Anglo-Saxon and another unrelated one from French that just happen to end up being spelled the same way. The gathering for buying and selling goods goes by an Anglo-Norman name (as did so many commercial things after the Norman Conquest), feyre (modern French foire), derived from the Latin word for "holiday", feria (a word which is still used in ecclesiastical English to designate an ordinary day as distinct from a feast day).
The adjective "fair" is much older in English, going back to an Anglo-Saxon word fagar (beautiful). The "g" sound between vowels almost always disappeared, so that by the Middle English period this word was also being spelled "fair". Because beauty is generally considered A Good Thing, the word took on many other meanings:
- 1. just, unbiased, equitable; in accordance with the rules.
- 2. blond; light or pale in colour or complexion.
- 3. of (only) moderate quality or amount; average.
- ■ considerable, satisfactory: a fair chance of success.
- 4. (of weather) fine and dry.
- ■ (of the wind) favourable.
- ■ (of the sky) clear; cloudless.
- 5. clean, clear, unblemished: fair copy.
- 6. (Baseball) (of a batted ball) that lands or is caught within the legal area of play.
Here's my choir (I am not in this video) singing William Harris's fabulous "Faire is the Heaven" (set to words by Edmund Spenser, who was not thinking about baseball).
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