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
If you sign up, you’ll get a daily notification on your phone to check out a term you may not have heard before and fun facts about the etymology of each.New retail integrations from Microsoft and Google in time for the holidays; Friday’s daily brief | Carolyn Lyden | October 22, 2021 | Search Engine Land
Builder is a word with Old English roots in the ideas “to be, exist, grow,” according to the Online Dictionary of etymology.Why do the media always pit labor against capital? | Walter Thompson | September 10, 2021 | TechCrunch
I moved to Washington in 1988 with the folk etymology of lobbyist firmly in mind.
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 | THE 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 | THE DAILY BEAST
Since etymology is epicentral to politics, the new titles that the Republican and Democratic parties choose must be right.
He understands this to mean "sheltered, secure from wind;" and he asks to what etymology this sense can be attributed.
I would have made the Saracens descend from Sarah; the etymology would then have been neater.A Philosophical Dictionary, Volume 1 (of 10) | Franois-Marie Arouet (AKA Voltaire)
No amount of brainwork has conjured any sense from Iffley, and the etymology has been placed on the shelf as “unknown”.
In a moment of noteworthy frankness Prof. Skeat has admitted that “Scientific etymology is usually clumsy and frequently wrong”.
The official etymology of June is “probably from root of Latin juvenis, junior,” but where is the sense in this?
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