Etymology is a fascinating field of study. People rarely think much about the words they use on a daily basis, but every word in the modem English language has been through an epic Journey to find its way Into our vocabulary. Listed below is the most interesting and surprising stories behind how some of the wordswe use today have mad their way into the English language.
An oxymoron is a phrase that contradicts itself, such as “Intelligent idiot.” The word comes from the Greek words oxus, meaning sharp, and moros, meaning blunt. So oxymoron is itself an oxymoron.
The word “daisy” means “day’s eye” in Old English. The flower takes its name from the fact that it was open during the day and closed at night.
Many English words are derived from Latin, and this results In a lot of English words being connected in ways whi ch are not immediately obvious. The Latin word tradere, meaning “to hand something over,” forms the base of a lot of words which are connected to this concept. The most obvious example is “trade.” Others are more surprising, such as “traitor,” “tradition,” and “translation” .
Europeans first encountered avocados in South America. The Spanish had difficulty reproducing the Nahuatl word aluracatl, so they instead referred to the fruit as avocado, the Spanish word for lawyer. The French use the same word for both lawyer and avocado — avocat. The most interesting and surprising part of this story is that the Nahuatl ahtracall also meant testicle.
This disease has a straightforward translation. “Malaria” is a combination of the Spanish words mat and aria, which translate to “bad air.”
Before gutters became a standard feature of roofing, wide eaves, or overhangs, were used to direct rainwater away from the home and protect the walls and foundations from being damaged. The area directly beneath this was known as the eavesdrop, and It was a perfect location for anyone wishing to spy on conversations occurring in the home. “Eavesdropping” therefore came to mean spying on others’ conversations, and was a specific criminal offence enshrined in Anglo-Saxon law.
One word with a complex history behind is “dollar” which came from the Joachimsthal valley in the modem-day Czech Republic. The valley was full of silver, which was used in the 16th century to produce coins known as Joachmisthaler. The coins were referred to by their shortened name, thaler or, taler, which became dater in Danish and Norwegan, then eventually the English word “dollar.”
The word “muscle” comesfrom the Latin word musculus, meaning “little mouse.” The name was given to muscles as early physicians sawthe movement of the musdes beneath the skin as being similar to the movement of small mice running around.
The Thugee were a group of criminalswho were infamous in Asia for committing ads of theft, murder, and mayhem. The word thugee was used in Urdu to describe anyone engaged in similar behavior, and eventually made its way into English as “thug.”
The English language Is unusual In having different words for meat and the animals which provide it, such as “beef” for cow meat and “ham” for pig meat. The explanation lies in history. When the Normans conquered England, French became the official language of England’s newruling class. The residing population continued to speak Anglo-Saxon, including the farmers and peasants, who referred to their animals as cows and pigs. However, the Normans used the French words bif and ham (respectively) to refer to the meat.
This one might shock you: the word “engineer” is completely unrelated to the word “engine.” Instead, engineer comes from ingenlum, the Latin word for talent, which also provides the root for the word “Ingenious”
The word “goodbye” is a shortened form of the phrase “God be with ye.”
Italian is the official language of Italy, and 93% of population are native Italian speakers. Around 50% of population speak a regional dialect as mother tongue. Many dialects are mutually unintelligible and thus considered by linguists as separate languages, but are not officially recognised. Did you know, 63% of the world's on-line population are non-English speakers.
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