Etymology (/ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/) is the study of the history of words. By extension, the term "the etymology (of a word)" means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.
For Greek—with a long written history—etymologists make use of texts, and texts about the language, to gather knowledge about how words were used during earlier periods and when they entered the language. Etymologists also apply the methods of comparative linguistics to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information to be available.
By analyzing related languages with a technique known as the comparative method, linguists can make inferences about their shared parent language and its vocabulary. In this way, word roots have been found that can be traced all the way back to the origin of, for instance, the Indo-European language family.
Even though etymological research originally grew from the philological tradition, much current etymological research is done on language families where little or no early documentation is available, such as Uralic and Austronesian.
In linguistics, the term etymon refers to a word or morpheme (e.g., stem or root) from which a later word derives. For example, the Latin word candidus, which means "white", is the etymon of English candid.
Etymologists apply a number of methods to study the origins of words, some of which are:
Etymological theory recognizes that words originate through a limited number of basic mechanisms, the most important of which are language change, borrowing (i.e., the adoption of "loanwords" from other languages); word formation such as derivation and compounding; and onomatopoeia and sound symbolism, (i.e., the creation of imitative words such as "click" or "grunt").
While the origin of newly emerged words is often more or less transparent, it tends to become obscured through time due to sound change or semantic change. Due to sound change, it is not readily obvious that the English word set is related to the word sit (the former is originally a causative formation of the latter). It is even less obvious that bless is related to blood (the former was originally a derivative with the meaning "to mark with blood").
Semantic change may also occur. For example, the English word bead originally meant "prayer". It acquired its modern meaning through the practice of counting the recitation of prayers by using beads.
English derives from Old English (sometimes referred to as Anglo-Saxon), a West Germanic variety, although its current vocabulary includes words from many languages. The Old English roots may be seen in the similarity of numbers in English and German, particularly seven/sieben, eight/acht, nine/neun, and ten/zehn. Pronouns are also cognate: I/mine/me and ich/mein/mich; thou/thine/thee and du/dein/dich; we/wir and us/uns; she/sie; your/ihr. However, language change has eroded many grammatical elements, such as the noun case system, which is greatly simplified in modern English, and certain elements of vocabulary, some of which are borrowed from French. Although many of the words in the English lexicon come from Romance languages, most of the common words used in English are of Germanic origin.
When the Normans conquered England in 1066 (see Norman Conquest), they brought their Norman language with them. During the Anglo-Norman period, which united insular and continental territories, the ruling class spoke Anglo-Norman, while the peasants spoke the vernacular English of the time. Anglo-Norman was the conduit for the introduction of French into England, aided by the circulation of Langue d'oïl literature from France.
This led to many paired words of French and English origin. For example, beef is related, through borrowing, to modern French bœuf, veal to veau, pork to porc, and poultry to poulet. All these words, French and English, refer to the meat rather than to the animal. Words that refer to farm animals, on the other hand, tend to be cognates of words in other Germanic languages. For example, swine/Schwein, cow/Kuh, calf/Kalb, and sheep/Schaf. The variant usage has been explained by the proposition that it was the Norman rulers who mostly ate meat (an expensive commodity) and the Anglo-Saxons who farmed the animals. This explanation has passed into common folklore but has been disputed.
English has proved accommodating to words from many languages. Scientific terminology, for example, relies heavily on words of Latin and Greek origin, but there are a great many non-scientific examples. Spanish has contributed many words, particularly in the southwestern United States. Examples include buckaroo, alligator, rodeo, savvy, and states' names such as Colorado and Florida. Albino, palaver, lingo, verandah, and coconut from Portuguese; diva and prima donna from Italian. Modern French has contributed café, cinema, naive, nicotine and many more.
Smorgasbord, slalom, and ombudsman are from Swedish, Norwegian and Danish; sauna from Finnish; adobe, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, apricot, assassin, caliber, cotton, hazard, jacket, jar, julep, mosque, Muslim, orange, safari, sofa, and zero from Arabic (often via other languages); behemoth, hallelujah, Satan, jubilee, and rabbi from Hebrew; taiga, steppe, Bolshevik, and sputnik from Russian.
Bandanna, bungalow, dungarees, guru, karma, and pundit come from Urdu, Hindi and ultimately Sanskrit; curry from Tamil; honcho, sushi, and tsunami from Japanese; dim sum, gung ho, kowtow, kumquat and typhoon from Cantonese. Kampong and amok are from Malay; and boondocks from the Tagalog word for hills or mountains, bundok. Ketchup derives from one or more South-East Asia and East Indies words for fish sauce or soy sauce, likely by way of Chinese, though the precise path is unclear: Malay kicap, Indonesian ketjap, Chinese Min Nan kê-chiap and cognates in other Chinese dialects.
Surprisingly few loanwords, however, come from other languages native to the British Isles. Those that exist include coracle, cromlech and (probably) flannel, gull and penguin from Welsh; galore and whisky from Scottish Gaelic; phoney, trousers, and Tory from Irish; and eerie and canny from Scots (or related Northern English dialects).
Many Canadian English and American English words (especially but not exclusively plant and animal names) are loanwords from Indigenous American languages, such as barbecue, bayou, chili, chipmunk, hooch, hurricane, husky, mesquite, opossum, pecan, squash, toboggan, and tomato.
The search for meaningful origins for familiar or strange words is far older than the modern understanding of linguistic evolution and the relationships of languages, which began no earlier than the 18th century. From Antiquity through the 17th century, from Pāṇini to Pindar to Sir Thomas Browne, etymology had been a form of witty wordplay, in which the supposed origins of words were creatively imagined to satisfy contemporary requirements; for example, the Greek poet Pindar (born in approximately 522 BCE) employed inventive etymologies to flatter his patrons. Plutarch employed etymologies insecurely based on fancied resemblances in sounds. Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae was an encyclopedic tracing of "first things" that remained uncritically in use in Europe until the sixteenth century. Etymologicum genuinum is a grammatical encyclopedia edited at Constantinople in the ninth century, one of several similar Byzantine works. The thirteenth-century Legenda Aurea, as written by Jacobus de Vorgagine, begins each vita of a saint with a fanciful excursus in the form of an etymology.
The Sanskrit linguists and grammarians of ancient India were the first to make a comprehensive analysis of linguistics and etymology. The study of Sanskrit etymology has provided Western scholars with the basis of historical linguistics and modern etymology. Four of the most famous Sanskrit linguists are:
These linguists were not the earliest Sanskrit grammarians, however. They followed a line of ancient grammarians of Sanskrit who lived several centuries earlier like Sakatayana of whom very little is known. The earliest of attested etymologies can be found in Vedic literature in the philosophical explanations of the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Upanishads.
The analyses of Sanskrit grammar done by the previously mentioned linguists involved extensive studies on the etymology (called Nirukta or Vyutpatti in Sanskrit) of Sanskrit words, because the ancient Indo-Aryans considered sound and speech itself to be sacred and, for them, the words of the sacred Vedas contained deep encoding of the mysteries of the soul and God.
One of the earliest philosophical texts of the Classical Greek period to address etymology was the Socratic dialogue Cratylus (c. 360 BCE) by Plato. During much of the dialogue, Socrates makes guesses as to the origins of many words, including the names of the gods. In his Odes Pindar spins complimentary etymologies to flatter his patrons. Plutarch (Life of Numa Pompilius) spins an etymology for pontifex, while explicitly dismissing the obvious, and actual "bridge-builder":
the priests, called Pontifices.... have the name of Pontifices from potens, powerful, because they attend the service of the gods, who have power and command over all. Others make the word refer to exceptions of impossible cases; the priests were to perform all the duties possible to them; if anything lay beyond their power, the exception was not to be cavilled at. The most common opinion is the most absurd, which derives this word from pons, and assigns the priests the title of bridge-makers. The sacrifices performed on the bridge were amongst the most sacred and ancient, and the keeping and repairing of the bridge attached, like any other public sacred office, to the priesthood.
Isidore of Seville compiled a volume of etymologies to illuminate the triumph of religion. Each saint's legend in Jacob de Voragine's Legenda Aurea begins with an etymological discourse on the saint's name:
Lucy is said of light, and light is beauty in beholding, after that S. Ambrose saith: The nature of light is such, she is gracious in beholding, she spreadeth over all without lying down, she passeth in going right without crooking by right long line; and it is without dilation of tarrying, and therefore it is showed the blessed Lucy hath beauty of virginity without any corruption; essence of charity without disordinate love; rightful going and devotion to God, without squaring out of the way; right long line by continual work without negligence of slothful tarrying. In Lucy is said, the way of light.
Etymology in the modern sense emerged in the late 18th-century European academia, within the context of the wider "Age of Enlightenment," although preceded by 17th century pioneers such as Marcus Zuerius van Boxhorn, Gerardus Vossius, Stephen Skinner, Elisha Coles, and William Wotton. The first known systematic attempt to prove the relationship between two languages on the basis of similarity of grammar and lexicon was made in 1770 by the Hungarian, János Sajnovics, when he attempted to demonstrate the relationship between Sami and Hungarian (work that was later extended to the whole Finno-Ugric language family in 1799 by his fellow countryman, Samuel Gyarmathi).
The origin of modern historical linguistics is often traced to Sir William Jones, a Welsh philologist living in India, who in 1782 observed the genetic relationship between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Jones published his The Sanscrit Language in 1786, laying the foundation for the field of Indo-European linguistics.
The study of etymology in Germanic philology was introduced by Rasmus Christian Rask in the early 19th century and elevated to a high standard with the German Dictionary of the Brothers Grimm. The successes of the comparative approach culminated in the Neogrammarian school of the late 19th century. Still in the 19th century, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche used etymological strategies (principally and most famously in On the Genealogy of Morals, but also elsewhere) to argue that moral values have definite historical (specifically, cultural) origins where modulations in meaning regarding certain concepts (such as "good" and "evil") show how these ideas had changed over time—according to which value-system appropriated them. This strategy gained popularity in the 20th century, and philosophers, such as Jacques Derrida, have used etymologies to indicate former meanings of words to de-center the "violent hierarchies" of Western philosophy.
An antagonist is the character in a story who is against the protagonist.Autumn
Autumn, also known as fall in American English and sometimes in Canadian English, is one of the four temperate seasons. Autumn marks the transition from summer to winter, in September (Northern Hemisphere) or March (Southern Hemisphere), when the duration of daylight becomes noticeably shorter and the temperature cools considerably. One of its main features is the shedding of leaves from deciduous trees.
Some cultures regard the autumnal equinox as "mid-autumn", while others with a longer temperature lag treat it as the start of autumn. Meteorologists (and most of the temperate countries in the southern hemisphere) use a definition based on Gregorian calendar months, with autumn being September, October, and November in the northern hemisphere, and March, April, and May in the southern hemisphere.
In North America, autumn traditionally starts on September 21 and ends on December 21. It is considered to start with the September equinox (21 to 24 September) and end with the winter solstice (21 or 22 December). Popular culture in the United States associates Labor Day, the first Monday in September, as the end of summer and the start of autumn; certain summer traditions, such as wearing white, are discouraged after that date. As daytime and nighttime temperatures decrease, trees shed their leaves. In traditional East Asian solar term, autumn starts on or around 8 August and ends on or about 7 November. In Ireland, the autumn months according to the national meteorological service, Met Éireann, are September, October and November. However, according to the Irish Calendar, which is based on ancient Gaelic traditions, autumn lasts throughout the months of August, September and October, or possibly a few days later, depending on tradition. The names of the months in Manx Gaelic are similarly based on autumn covering August, September and October. In Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, autumn officially begins on 1 March and ends on 31 May.Backronym
A backronym, or bacronym, is a constructed phrase that purports to be the source of a word that is an acronym. Backronyms may be invented with either serious or humorous intent, or they may be a type of false etymology or folk etymology.
An acronym is a word derived from the initial letters of the words of a phrase: For example, the word radar comes from "radio detection and ranging".By contrast, a backronym is "an acronym deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name or as a fanciful explanation of a word's origin."For example, the United States Department of Justice assigns to its Amber Alert program the meaning "America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response," but the term originally referred to Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996.The word is a blend of back and acronym.Cognate
In linguistics, cognates are words that have a common etymological origin. A cognate etymon need not be inherited directly from a proto-language; the etymon can be borrowed from some other language, in which evolution produces cognate forms. For example, the English word dish and the German word Tisch ("table") are cognates because they both come from Latin discus, which relates to their flat surfaces. Cognates may have evolved similar, different or even opposite meanings, but in most cases there are some similar sounds or letters in the words. Some words sound similar, but don't come from the same root; these are called false cognates.
The word cognate derives from the Latin noun cognatus, which means "blood relative".East
East is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass. It is the opposite direction from west.False etymology
A false etymology (popular etymology, etymythology, pseudo-etymology, or par(a)etymology), sometimes called folk etymology – although the last term is also a technical term in linguistics – is a popularly held but false belief about the origin or derivation of a specific word.
Such etymologies often have the feel of urban legends, and can be much more colorful and fanciful than the typical etymologies found in dictionaries, often involving stories of unusual practices in particular subcultures (e.g. Oxford students from non-noble families being supposedly forced to write sine nobilitate by their name, soon abbreviated to s.nob., hence the word snob). Many recent examples are "backronyms" (acronyms made up to explain a term), as in snob, and posh for "port outward, starboard homeward"; many other sourced examples are listed in the article on backronyms.Folk etymology
Folk etymology or reanalysis – sometimes called pseudo-etymology, popular etymology, or analogical reformation – is a change in a word or phrase resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familiar one. The form or the meaning of an archaic, foreign, or otherwise unfamiliar word is reanalyzed as resembling more familiar words or morphemes. Rebracketing is a form of folk etymology in which a word is broken down or "bracketed" into a new set of supposed elements. Back-formation, creating a new word by removing or changing parts of an existing word, is often based on folk etymology.
The term folk etymology is a loan translation from German Volksetymologie, coined by Ernst Förstemann in 1852. Folk etymology is a productive process in historical linguistics, language change, and social interaction. Reanalysis of a word's history or original form can affect its spelling, pronunciation, or meaning. This is frequently seen in relation to loanwords or words that have become archaic or obsolete.
Examples of words created or changed through folk etymology include the English dialectal form sparrowgrass, originally from Greek ἀσπάραγος ("asparagus") remade by analogy to the more familiar words sparrow and grass, or the word burger, originally from Hamburg + -er ("thing connected with"), but understood as ham + burger.Foobar
The terms foobar (), or foo and others are used as placeholder names (also referred to as metasyntactic variables) in computer programming or computer-related documentation. They have been used to name entities such as variables, functions, and commands whose exact identity is unimportant and serve only to demonstrate a concept.Fuck
Fuck is an obscene English-language word which often refers to the act of sexual intercourse but is also commonly used as an intensifier or to denote disdain. While its origin is obscure, it is usually considered to be first attested to around 1475. In modern usage, the term "fuck" and its derivatives (such as "fucker" and "fucking") can be used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an interjection or an adverb. There are many common phrases that employ the word as well as compounds that incorporate it, such as "motherfucker," "fuckwit" and "fucknut".Fun
Fun is the enjoyment of pleasure, particularly in leisure activities. Fun is an experience often unexpected, informal or purposeless. It is an enjoyable distraction, diverting the mind and body from any serious task or contributing an extra dimension to it. Although particularly associated with recreation and play, fun may be encountered during work, social functions, and even seemingly mundane activities of daily living. It may often have little to no logical basis, and opinions on whether an activity is fun may differ from person to person. A distinction between enjoyment and fun is difficult but possible to articulate, fun being a more spontaneous, playful, or active event. There are psychological and physiological implications to the experience of fun.
Modern Westernized civilizations prioritize fun as an external and sexual aspect.History
History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning 'inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation') is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.
History can also refer to the academic discipline which uses a narrative to examine and analyse a sequence of past events, and objectively determine the patterns of cause and effect that determine them. Historians sometimes debate the nature of history and its usefulness by discussing the study of the discipline as an end in itself and as a way of providing "perspective" on the problems of the present.Stories common to a particular culture, but not supported by external sources (such as the tales surrounding King Arthur), are usually classified as cultural heritage or legends, because they do not show the "disinterested investigation" required of the discipline of history. Herodotus, a 5th-century BC Greek historian is considered within the Western tradition to be the "father of history", and, along with his contemporary Thucydides, helped form the foundations for the modern study of human history. Their works continue to be read today, and the gap between the culture-focused Herodotus and the military-focused Thucydides remains a point of contention or approach in modern historical writing. In East Asia, a state chronicle, the Spring and Autumn Annals was known to be compiled from as early as 722 BC although only 2nd-century BC texts have survived.
Ancient influences have helped spawn variant interpretations of the nature of history which have evolved over the centuries and continue to change today. The modern study of history is wide-ranging, and includes the study of specific regions and the study of certain topical or thematical elements of historical investigation. Often history is taught as part of primary and secondary education, and the academic study of history is a major discipline in university studies.Name of Pittsburgh
The name of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has a complicated history. Pittsburgh is one of the few U.S. cities or towns to be spelled with an h at the end
of a burg suffix.Online Etymology Dictionary
The Online Etymology Dictionary is a free online dictionary written and compiled by Douglas Harper that describes the origins of English-language words.Pejorative
A pejorative (also called a derogatory term, a slur, a term of abuse, or a term of disparagement) is a word or grammatical form expressing a negative connotation or a low opinion of someone or something, showing a lack of respect for someone or something. It is also used to express criticism, hostility, or disregard. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social or ethnic groups but not in others. Sometimes, a term may begin as a pejorative and eventually be adopted in a non-pejorative sense (or vice versa) in some or all contexts.
Name slurs can also involve an insulting or disparaging innuendo, rather than being a direct pejorative. In some cases, a person's name can be redefined with an unpleasant or insulting meaning, or be applied to a group of people considered by anyone to be inferior or lower in social class, as a group label with a disparaging meaning.Raven
A raven is one of several larger-bodied species of the genus Corvus. These species do not form a single taxonomic group within the genus.
There is no consistent distinction between "crows" and "ravens", and these appellations have been assigned to different species chiefly on the basis of their size, crows generally being smaller than ravens.
The largest raven species are the common raven and the thick-billed raven.Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Kitts and Nevis ( (listen)), also known as the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, is an island country in the West Indies. Located in the Leeward Islands chain of the Lesser Antilles, it is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere, in both area and population. The country is a Commonwealth realm, with Elizabeth II as queen and head of state.
The capital city is Basseterre on the larger island of Saint Kitts. The smaller island of Nevis lies approximately 3 km (2 mi) southeast of Saint Kitts across a shallow channel called "The Narrows".
The British dependency of Anguilla was historically also a part of this union, which was then known collectively as Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla. To the north-northwest lie the islands of Sint Eustatius, and Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten and Anguilla. To the east and northeast are Antigua and Barbuda, and to the southeast is the small uninhabited island of Redonda, and the island of Montserrat, which currently has an active volcano (see Soufrière Hills).
Saint Kitts and Nevis were among the first islands in the Caribbean to be settled by Europeans. Saint Kitts was home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean, and thus has also been titled "The Mother Colony of the West Indies".Sarajevo
Sarajevo (; Cyrillic: Сарајево, pronounced [sǎrajeʋo]; see names in other languages) is the capital and largest city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a population of 275,524 in its administrative limits. The Sarajevo metropolitan area, including Sarajevo Canton, East Sarajevo and nearby municipalities, is home to 555,210 inhabitants.a Nestled within the greater Sarajevo valley of Bosnia, it is surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of the Balkans.
Sarajevo is the political, social and cultural center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a prominent center of culture in the Balkans, with its region-wide influence in entertainment, media, fashion, and the arts.Due to its long and rich history of religious and cultural diversity, Sarajevo is sometimes called the "Jerusalem of Europe" or "Jerusalem of the Balkans". It is one of only a few major European cities which have a mosque, Catholic church, Orthodox church and synagogue in the same neighborhood. A regional center in education, the city is home to the Balkans first institution of tertiary education in the form of an Islamic polytechnic called the Saraybosna Osmanlı Medrese, today part of the University of Sarajevo.Although settlement in the area stretches back to prehistoric times, the modern city arose as an Ottoman stronghold in the 15th century. Sarajevo has attracted international attention several times throughout its history. In 1885, Sarajevo was the first city in Europe and the second city in the world to have a full-time electric tram network running through the city, following San Francisco. In 1914, it was the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by local Young Bosnia activist Gavrilo Princip that sparked World War I, which also ended Austro-Hungarian rule in Bosnia and resulted in the creation of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Later, after World War II, the establishment of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Second Yugoslavia led to a massive expansion of Sarajevo, the constituent republic's capital, which culminated with the hosting of the 1984 Winter Olympics marking a prosperous era for the city. However, after the start of the Yugoslav Wars, for 1,425 days, from April 1992 to February 1996, the city suffered the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, during the Bosnian War and the breakup of Yugoslavia.Sarajevo has been undergoing post-war reconstruction, and is the fastest growing city in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The travel guide series Lonely Planet has named Sarajevo as the 43rd best city in the world, and in December 2009 listed Sarajevo as one of the top ten cities to visit in 2010. In 2011, Sarajevo was nominated to be the European Capital of Culture in 2014 and will be hosting the European Youth Olympic Festival in 2019.Scandinavia
Scandinavia ( SKAN-dih-NAY-vee-ə) is a region in Northern Europe, with strong historical, cultural, and linguistic ties. The term Scandinavia in local usage covers the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The majority national languages of these three, belong to the Scandinavian dialect continuum, and are mutually intelligible North Germanic languages. In English usage, Scandinavia also sometimes refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula, or to the broader region including Finland and Iceland, which is always known locally as the Nordic countries.While part of the Nordic countries, the remote Norwegian islands of Svalbard and Jan Mayen are not in Scandinavia, nor is Greenland, a constituent country within the Kingdom of Denmark. The Faroe Islands are sometimes included.Toponymy
Toponymy is the study of place names (toponyms), their origins, meanings, use, and typology.