Word etymology is fun and interesting. There is always wonder in tracing back where words come from. Sometimes, some very common words have really weird origins. Like this list we put together a while back. The Book of Everyone did something similarly fun. They came with word facts that we think will blow your mind, especially if you are a word nerd like us. So, here is 25 word facts for you to digest and we hope they appeal to you. Please let us know what you think in a comment.Continue reading “27 Interesting Facts About Words That You Probably Didn’t Know.”
A while back, we published a map that shows the literal meaning of every country’s name and it was very informative and thought-provoking, and it stirred a lot of meaningful discussions. Today, we brought to you another map that is equally interesting. This map shows the meanings of the most famous cities around the world from all six continents. The map was put together by On The Go Tours. We broke it down into continents so you can gaze at each one individually. Please if you don’t see your city, add it in the comment section. Have a good read. Click on the images to enlarge.Continue reading “Extraordinary Map Shows the Literal Meanings of City Names.”
This infographic from lovereading.co.uk chronicles some of the most outstanding words in English which come from literature. Enjoy 🙂Continue reading “15 Words You Never Knew Came from Literature (Infographic).”
There is an interesting pattern that the word ‘tea’ shows across the globe. With very minor exceptions, the world has only two words for tea. One is like the English tea (e.g. thé in French, té in Spanish, and tee in Afrikaans). The other one is some variations of cha found in Arabic chay and Hindi cha for example. In what follows, we are going to explain the reason behind this duality.Continue reading “Tea if by sea, Cha if by land: Why the world has only two words for tea.”
There are beautiful stories and meanings behind every country’s name. Well, there should be! Etymology is an interesting subject of its own, add in some geography to it and you will be amazed to find out how astonishing and weird the meanings of some countries’ names are.
While you may know the meaning of your country’s name, other countries’ names remain a mystery to all of us. To unravel the mystery, Credit Card Compare created an insightful map in which they visualized the literal translations and meanings of every country’s name. Let’s break that down by continents. And hey, if the images are too small, just zoom in a little or open them in a new tab, they are in high resolution.Continue reading “Map shows the literal meaning of every country’s name.”
Language evolves whether we like it or not. Language always gains words and features that are incredibly useful but down the road, it also loses equally important features. Below you will find 20 awesome English words that have long been forgotten which we should bring back to daily use.Continue reading “20 Awesome Historical Words We Should Bring Back”
If you’re a language nerd, you probably find great joy in the origins of words. That’s because it’s fun! It’s always a joy to track the etymology of words. You can never know what you will find. Some words have pretty much fine etymologies. Other words, however, stun us with their completely unexpected etymologies. The Language Nerds did a little digging and compiled for you some of the words which have completely unexpected etymologies. Let’s see what we’ve got!Continue reading “These Are The Words With The Funniest And Weirdest Origins.”
Arabic is one of the most ancient, varied, and beautifully scripted languages. It is spoken by nearly 400 million users, placing it among the most 5 spoken languages in the world. Its influence on Spanish since the time of the Moors is well known, but what’s less well known is how many commonly used English words were actually taken from Arabic. English didn’t borrow all of the words directly; they mostly came filtered through Latin, Turkish, French, Spanish, German, and/or Italian, and have changed in form — and sometimes meaning — since they left Arabic. Here is a list:Continue reading “English Words You Didn’t Know Come From Arabic.”
I find it hysterical when people incorrectly assume the origins of words. What’s even more hysterical is when you find out that you are one of them. That’s what happened to me when I came across the etymology of the words male, female, man, and woman. Sometimes we manipulate the words and make adjustments to them so they fit our assumption. Wait until you read about the etymology of the words that I’ve just mentioned. This phenomenon is fairly common and it actually has its own name: folk etymology. Extreme cases of this include the feminist movement that demands that the word history be renamed her-story.
Let’s see what else we’ve got! The word Goodbye was actually “Godbye”, contraction of the phrase “God be with ye“. but people incorrectly assumed that Goodbye is just another greeting phrase like “good morning” or “good night” and so they changed it, tacitly of course, to goodbye, mindless of the fact that bye has no meaning of its own.
Now let’s do away with the folk etymology of the words man vs woman and male vs female. To many, the word man carries stigma; you shouldn’t use man to refer to human, that’s sexist. To others, both words should be dismissed because even human has man in it. Same thing for mankind and humankind. The nonsense doesn’t stop here. They went so far as to complain why does woman have ‘man’ in it and female has the word ‘male’ in it? But seriously…why?
Man derives from Proto-Germanic and it meant literally “person”, that is, it could refer to both man and woman. Woman, on the other hand, derives from Wif or wifman. What was used to refer to man with its sense of today is wer or werman. That this hits the right spot is confirmed by the survival of wer in werewolf (literally man-wolf).
Wifmen, in the course of language development, lost the “f” and became wimman until it reached us as woman. werman, didn’t just lose the “r”, like what happened with the “f” in wifmen. Following the Norman conquest, the whole “wer” was gone, and it became man, and it gradually narrowed down to refer to male men only.
According to Wikipedia:
“The spelling of woman in English has progressed over the past millennium from wīfmann to wīmmann to wumman, and finally, the modern spelling woman. In Old English,wīfmann meant “female human”, whereas wēr meant “male human”. Mann or monn had a gender-neutral meaning of “human”, corresponding to Modern English “person” or “someone”; however, subsequent to the Norman Conquest, man began to be used more in reference to “male human”, and by the late 13th century had begun to eclipse usage of the older term wēr. The medial labial consonants “f” and “m” in wīfmann coalesced into the modern form “woman”, while the initial element, which meant “female”, underwent semantic narrowing to the sense of a married woman (“wife”). It is a popular misconception that the term “woman” is etymologically connected with “womb”, which is from a separate Old English word, wambe meaning “stomach” (of male or female).”
Man kept its definition as “person” until the 20th century when people assumed that it excluded women – understandably, since many men were using it in that way – so it’s fallen out of use for the most part, keeping the definition it has today. This was natural given the pervasive sexism at the time, where male was viewed as the ‘default’ gender.
Let’s now settle down to handle “human” and “male”. “Human” derives from the Latin humanus and has nothing to do with the word “man”. “Male” is from Latin masculus (“male”), which was then shortened to masle in Old French, Old french dropped the “s” and it finally became “male”. “Female” is also from French, but from femelle (“woman”), from the Latin diminutive of femina; it never had any connection, etymologically speaking, to “male”.
Still, although there are no etymological relationships between these words and what people purport them to indicate, it’s amazing how our minds find patterns, that may not exist, and link them to what’s going on in the world. Oscar Tay from Quora writes that “sometimes speakers fail to see a word’s origin and end up with etymological flotsam. “Cranberry” is an example of this: it comes from the Low German kraanbere, literally “crane-berry”. When English borrowed it, speakers correctly recognized that bere meant “berry”, but not that kraan meant “crane”, so they anglicized kraan to “cran” and ended up with “cranberry”, where “cran” doesn’t mean anything but is needed to make the word work.” See Tay’s original answer [here]. Word bits that have no meaning of themselves like *-bye in “goodbye” and *cran– in “cranberry” are called, ironically enough, “cranberry morphemes“.
At any rate, although language is full of sexism (flowing both ways), male, female, man, and woman are innocent little words made victims by mindless folk etymology. Next time you come across people who are still confused about this matter, educate them and help them clear the confusion.
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