Etymology is the study surrounding the origin of words and how the meaning of words has changed over the course of history.

Understanding a word’s root can help a person understand the native language better and teach the common root of words in several different languages. That enables the reader to recognize words in other languages without being told exactly what they mean.

Let’s get meta and take the word “etymology” as an example. “Etymology” derives from the Greek word etumos, meaning “true.” Etumologia was the study of words’ “true meanings.” This evolved into “etymology” by way of the Old French ethimologie.

Etymology defines patterns and relationships between languages which offers a greater capacity to comprehend great writing past and present.

The English language is constantly living and growing,. with new words added all the time.


  • Derived from Foreign Words – English has been expanded by incorporating foreign words into it.  Most of our language has ancient Anglo-Saxon or Latin origins.
  • Additions through Technology & Products – Our words often reflect current interests, trends, and innovations including computer technology, creating words such as bytesmonitor, and disk.New words come into our language through the development of products.  Some examples include: Kleenex, Walkman, Scotch tape, Xerox, and Linoleum.
  • People’s Names – when a person invents or introduces or invests something, that thing becomes associated with the person’s name.
    1. mesmerize – F.A. Mesmer, an Austrian doctor and hypnotist.
    2. sideburns – an American English alteration of burnsides, Ambrose E. Burnside, a Union general
  • Words from Letters 

    – The initials for the names of things may actually come to replace the names.  The initials become the words that represent the thing, concept, or group.  Words that have developed from initials.

    1. TV – TeleVision
    2. DWI – Driving While Intoxicated
    3. COD – Cash On Delivery
  • Word Histories – Learning the stories behind the meanings is a good way to learn those words.  Examples of how history can affect language.
    1. footman – Rich people hired a servant to stand at their doors.  His job was to guard against a guest’s stepping on the threshold.  The guard became known as a footman.
    2. hooker – A synonym for prostitute, a term that became popular during the Civil War.  The women involved were camp followers.  General “Fighting Joe” Hooker approved their presence in order to boost the morale of his men.

Next time you’re at your local coffee shop, impress them with this whimsical anecdote about the origin of the word cappuccino: it’s the diminutive form of the word cappuccio, which means “hood” in Italian. The link is between a (little) hood and a cappuccino and one must look no further than the Capuchin Monks, whose hooded habits were a dark, oak brown similar to the color of a good cappuccino.

“Linda has published sixteen books. She blogs about the publishing world, posts useful tips on the challenges a writer faces, including marketing and promoting your work, how to build your online platform, how to get reviews and how to self-publish. She has mentored many authors and edited their work.”  

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