Monday, March 14, 2016

Etymology (Not to be Confused with Entomology)

Garden Friend, September 2015
"Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time."

It's part of the writer's life, I guess, the love of words--and loving the history of those words. And it goes without saying that etymology goes deeper than simply a word's definition.

What's the difference? Well, "A definition tells us what a word means and how it's used in our own time. An etymology tells us where a word came from (often, but not always, from another language), and what it used to mean." (

So, over the years, I've collected a grouping of favorites from a variety of sources. Here's a sample:

"Imagination comes from 'image.' --Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

"Someone online asked me how to use intuition. Well, intuition works best when you remember that 'tuition' is part of it. You need to have paid ahead of time (ie done your prep work) so as to prepare the ground for intuition." --Jane Yolen, For Writers

"The word trial (try-all) refers to a tentative, experimental act." --Gabriele Lusser Rico, Writing the Natural Way

"With connectedness and pattern, meaning begins to emerge; we call this larger pattern context --literally, 'that which is braided together.'" --Gabriele Lusser Rico, Writing the Natural Way

The Greek word interpreted as 'comfort' originally meant 'to walk alongside of'."    --Marsha Crockett, See the Wind, Mommy

"Courage comes from the Latin 'cor' which means 'heart'."--Beth Moore, Study on Esther

"To remember is, literally, to put broken pieces back together, to re-member. It is to create an original wholeness out of what has become scattered fragments." --Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God

"Humility means staying close to the ground (humus), to people, to everyday life, to what is happening with all its down-to-earthness." --Eugene Peterson, The Ministry of Small Talk

On-line sources for exploring etymology from different angles:
     *Curious Word Origins
     *Etymology of English Words Which Derive from Latin
     *How to Study the Etymology of Words
     *Fun with Words and Word Origins
     *On-Line Etymology Dictionary
     *Etymology and Vocabulary Building

Do you enjoy dipping into the etymologies of words? If so, what is one of your favorite words and its history?

p.s. And entomology? A branch of science that deals with the study of insects--like my little friend in the photo taken last fall :-)


  1. I do like etymology, though I haven't made a study of it. Of those you listed, my favorite is remember, the idea of putting together things that are scattered. That has a special resonance for writers who pull scattered ideas from every part of their lives to create a new whole.

    Interesting post. Thanks!

  2. Thanks back to you, Peggy :-) And "remember" is my personal favorite, too. Altho I think of it more in terms of all these senior moments that come all too frequently anymore, trying to remember a date or where I put something, etc. I often find myself trying to pull those scattered parts together that way! Have a great rest of the week, and thanks for your insights...