Word Stories • Every word has a biography, like a person. • A word’s biography includes where it was born, how it grew and changed, and the influences that made it what it is today.
Etymology • the study of words; the biography of a word • geology = the study of the earth • biology = the study of life • psychology = the study of thinking and the brain
calculate • The Romans did not have calculators. They used pebbles as counters. The Latin word for pebble was ‘calculus.’
cantaloupe • After Cantalupo, the name of a former papal villa near Rome, Italy, where the melons were first grown in Europe.
cheddar • After Cheddar, a village in Somerset, England, where this cheese was first made.
abracadabra • This word was used to ward off trouble or disease. It was once worn on an amulet in which the letters were arranged in an inverted pyramid. One less letter appeared in each line of the pyramid until only a remained to form the vertex of the triangle. As the letters disappeared, so did the disease or trouble.
alphabet • Our modern alphabet came from the Greeks. The word alphabet was made by joining the first two Greek letters, alpha and beta.
America • AmerigoVespucci went to sea with Columbus as a map maker. Seeing Amerigo’s maps of the new continent, people began calling it America.
sandwich • John Montague, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich in England, was sometimes so busy that he refused to get up, even to eat a meal. It is said that around the year 1765, he asked his servants to bring him his meat by placing it between two pieces of bread. Soon, others began to order “the same as Sandwich.”
breakfast • One of the meanings of the word “fast” is “to eat nothing for a period of time.” In the morning, we break the fast.
cereal • Ceres was the Roman goddess of grain, and it’s from her name that we get the word ‘cereal.’
bus • The word is an abbreviation of omnibus, Latin for “everybody vehicle.”
chocolate • In 1519, Hernan Cortes, a Spanish explorer, invaded Mexico. He found that the Aztecs drank a frothy, bitter drink they called ‘chocolatl’ made from cacao beans.
dandelion • In France, this weed with a yellow flower was called dent-de-lion (lion’s tooth), referring to the sharp leaves of the plant. In English, dent-de-lion evolved into dandelion.
England and English • In 500 AD, two German tribes, the Angles and Saxons, invaded England. The language spoken by the Angles evolved into the English we speak today. In the beginning, the Angles were called the Angli. As time went by, their name changed to the Engle. The place where they lived was called Engla-land. And the language they spoke was englisc, which is now English.
shampoo • From the Indian word champo, meaning “massage the scalp.”
sofa • Originally referred to a fancy cushion on a camel’s saddle
Louisiana • Named in 1682, after King Louis XIV of France.
umbrella • From the Roman word umbraculum, meaning “shady place.”
How are words born? • From other languages. • Influenced by names of people and places. • Sound like phrases or words. • Combining phrases, letters, or words.
New Words Are Born Everyday Words added in recent years: • Email • Emoticon • Flash Mob • Tweet • Ringtone • Jeggings • Cyberbullying :)
Discovering Word Histories • Dictionaries • Online Websites (www.etymonline.com) • Books on Etymology
BrainPop: Etymology • http://www.brainpop.com/english/grammar/etymology/