noun, plural et·y·mol·o·gies.
Origin of etymology
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.
Examples from the Web for etymology
The Daily Beast reached out to Eschliman to ask about the definition and etymology of the term "Gaystapo."Fringe Factor: 'Gaystapo' Claims Its Latest 'Victim'|Olivia Nuzzi|July 26, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Its origins and etymology are veiled in mystery: cha is Chinese for “tea,” but debates rage over those first two syllables.Is Celebrity Favorite Kombucha Really a Health and Anti-Aging Cure?|Anneli Rufus|February 28, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Since etymology is epicentral to politics, the new titles that the Republican and Democratic parties choose must be right.
The first class contains the forms connected, partially in their etymology and wholly in their syntax, with my and thy, &c.The English Language|Robert Gordon Latham
As applied to men, Skeat thinks it meant good or worthy at stealing; but the etymology is still unsettled.Anglo-Saxon Grammar and Exercise Book|C. Alphonso Smith
The etymology of this hammercloth, which was simply a covering over the coach-box, seems to have puzzled people considerably.Carriages & Coaches|Ralph Straus
It may be well, however, to look into the etymology of the two words we are considering.Play-Making|William Archer
Let us try the test of an expression somewhat kindred in etymology: such a word as would carry upon its face a damning solecism.Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, Vol. 1 of 3|W. E. Gladstone
British Dictionary definitions for etymology
noun plural -gies
Word Origin for etymology
Word Origin and History for etymology
late 14c., ethimolegia "facts of the origin and development of a word," from Old French et(h)imologie (14c., Modern French étymologie), from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymologia, properly "study of the true sense (of a word)," from etymon "true sense" (neuter of etymos "true, real, actual," related to eteos "true") + -logia "study of, a speaking of" (see -logy).
In classical times, of meanings; later, of histories. Latinized by Cicero as veriloquium. As a branch of linguistic science, from 1640s. Related: Etymological; etymologically.