the derivation of a word.
a chronological account of the birth and development of a particular word or element of a word, often delineating its spread from one language to another and its evolving changes in form and meaning.
the study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words.
Ancient and medieval etymologies are mostly conjectures, puns, or folk etymologies, and are generally wildly incorrect. Cicero, for instance, gives the etymology of Venus (stem Vener- ), the goddess of love, as a derivation of the verb venīre “to come” because love and desire come to all. The most famous etymological howler in Latin is Lūcus a nōn lūcendō “Grove from there being no light,” a pun on lūcus “a clearing, grove” and lūcēre “to shine.” Lūcus a nōn lūcendō first appears in a commentary on the Aeneid by Maurus Servius Honoratus, a grammarian of the late 4th and early 5th centuries.
Common English folk etymologies include cockroach for Spanish cucaracha and chaise lounge for the correct chaise longue. In the case of cockroach, you have the unfamiliar Spanish sounds assimilating with two near-sounding English words, cock and roach. The longue in chaise longue means “long,” but to English readers, looks very close in spelling to lounge, which is a logical use for a chair that is made for reclining on.
Etymology in the sense “the linguistic science that investigates the origins of a word, its relationships with words in other languages, and its historical development in form and meaning” dates from the 1640s.
- et·y·mo·log·i·cal [et-uh-muh-loj-i-kuhl], /ˌɛt ə məˈlɒdʒ ɪ kəl/, et·y·mo·log·ic, adjective
- et·y·mo·log·i·cal·ly, adverb
- et·y·mol·o·gist, noun
- pseu·do·et·y·mo·log·i·cal, adjective
- pseu·do·et·y·mo·log·i·cal·ly, adverb
- sub·et·y·mol·o·gy, noun, plural sub·et·y·mol·o·gies.
- un·et·y·mo·log·ic, adjective
- un·et·y·mo·log·i·cal, adjective
- un·et·y·mo·log·i·cal·ly, adverb
- entomology, etymology
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use etymology in a sentence
Languages of this latter kind are of subordinate value to the Etymologist.Opuscula | Robert Gordon Latham
But Horne Tooke, in his zeal as an etymologist, forgot altogether to attend to the construction of the passage.
The etymologist finds the deadest word to have been once a brilliant picture.Essays, Second Series | Ralph Waldo Emerson
I will now give a few examples of the way in which the study of semantics helps the etymologist.The Romance of Words (4th ed.) | Ernest Weekley
The etymologist must either be an antiquary or must know where to go for sound antiquarian information.The Romance of Words (4th ed.) | Ernest Weekley
British Dictionary definitions for etymology
the study of the sources and development of words and morphemes
an account of the source and development of a word or morpheme
- etymological (ˌɛtɪməˈlɒdʒɪkəl), adjective
- etymologically, adverb
- etymologist, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012