Barry’s Blog # 154: Creative Etymology for a World Gone Mad, Part Two of Two


Part of the work of bringing soul back into the world is learning to address this world — and each other — with beautiful, complex, multi-faceted, nuanced (slight difference, shade of color, mist, vapor, cloud) language (tongue; Spanish: lengua), and to know how our words have evolved over many centuries from their original Greek, Latin or Germanic meanings. English in particular is a mish-mash (mash: to mix with hot water, reduce to a soft pulpy consistency) of influences, because English history itself is the story of regular invasion by different language groups. It is indeed ironic that the English themselves invaded so many other countries that the language acquired countless words from other places. But that is another story.

So here is a very incomplete list of English words with surprising (related to comprehend) roots, original meanings and connections to other common words.

I invite you to bookmark an etymology dictionary on your computer. Get into the habit of wondering, “Hey, what does that word mean? Is it related to this other one? Why?” And please send me any interesting (to be between) additions.

Adolescence    – Becoming adult; related to nourish, old

Adulate            – To wag the tail

Aggravate        – To make heavier; related to grief

Alcohol            – Related to kohl, the powder used to darken the eyelids

Amateur          – Related to amor, love

Analyze           – To loosen, related to catalyst, release, lose; from Dionysus “the Loosener”

Anger              – Tight, painfully constricted, narrow, to squeeze; related to anxious

Animate           – To give life to, from anima (“life, soul, breath”), related to animal

Apocalypse      – To lift the veil

Author             – One who causes to grow; related to authority, augment

Barbarian        – Unintelligible speech of foreigners

Bless                 – Originally a blood sprinkling on pagan altars; possibly related to wound

Boil                     – Related to bull (Papal edict)

Catastrophe    – To turn downward

Catholic           – Universally accepted

Circle               – Related to circus, circumstance

Collude            – To play with

Comrade         – Sharing the same room or bed (cama); related to camera, chamber

Communicate – To make common

Compassion   – To suffer together

Compete         – To petition the gods together; related to competent

Complain         – To strike, beat the breast; related to plague

Complicate      – To fold together

Confound        – To pour together

Congregate     – To collect in a flock, related to gregarious, aggregate            

Conjure           – With the law

Conspire          – To breathe together

Consider          – With the stars

Converse         – To turn about with

Convince         – Related to conquer, victory, invincible

Courage           – Heart; related to discord

Create             – Arise, grow; related to crescent

Culture            – Tend, guard, cultivate; related to colony

Custom            – Related to costume

Danger            – Power of a lord or master; related to domain, dominate, domestic

Delight             – Related to dilettante, delicious

Debate            – To beat down

Deluded          – Out of the game

Demon            – Related to daemon, jinn, genie (genius)

Destroy            – Un-build; related to structure

Diabolic           – To slander, attack, throw across; related to ballistic

Dilettante         – Related to delight

Disaster          – Against the stars

Discourse        – A running about

Divide              – Related to widow, with

Economy         – Ordering of the household

Educate           – To bring forth what is within, to lead; related to Duke

Elude               – Out of the game

Emotion           – To move out, remove, agitate

Entertain          – To hold together

Enthusiastic     – Filled with a god

Epidemic         – Among the people

Explain            – To flatten or limit

Extravagant   – To wander outside

Fate                   – Spoken by the gods; related to fame, fable

Fatal Flaw       – To miss the mark in archery

Fortune           – From Roman goddess of luck Fortuna

Gargoyle          – Waterspout, from French for throat, related to gargle

Genius             – Guardian deity that watches over one from birth; related to genie

Glamor            – Dangerous female enchantment

Grow                – Related to grass, green

Guru                – Heavy, weighty; related to grave

Happy              – Related to happen

Hell                  – Norse goddess, one who covers up or hides something

Heretic             – One who is able to choose freely

Hermetic          – Dealing with the occult; from Greek god Hermes

Host                 – Related to hospitality, hospital

Humiliate         – Related to humus, humor, humble, human, humid

Hysterical        – Of the womb

Idiot                 – One who will not participate in public affairs

Illusion             – In the game, to play with; related to ludicrous

Imbue              – To keep wet; to soak, saturate; related to imbibe

Immolate         – To sprinkle with sacrificial meal as sacrifice; to grind; related to mallet

Inaugurate       – To divine the future, related to augur, contemplate

Initiate             – To begin, enter

Innocent           – Related to noxious

Instruction       – To pile on, related to construct, structure

Interested        – To be between

Intrigue            – To entangle; related to intricate

Left (side)        – Related to sinister

Liberty             – From Liber (Dionysus), related to liberate, liberal

Limit                – Threshold; related to liminal, preliminary

Mania              – Related to mind and maenad (a female follower of Dionysus)

Materialism      – From mater (“mother”)

Mentor             – The goddess Athena in disguise; one who thinks; related to mind, mania

Mercury           – From Roman god of tradesmen Mercurius; related to market, mercy

Metaphor         – To carry over

Muscle             – Little mouse

Museum          – Shrine of the Muses; related to amuse, bemuse

Miracle            – Smiling

Move               – Related to moment, momentum

Mystery           – To close, shut; related to mute

Negotiate         – To clear a hedge, fence, or other obstacle on horseback

Noble               – One who knows him- or herself; related to Gnosticism

Nostalgia         – Longing for another place (not time); desire for homecoming

Nuanced          – Slight difference, shade of color, mist, vapor, cloud

Number           – Related to nemesis

Obey                 – Listen to, pay attention, related to audience

Opportunity     – Entrance or passage through, related to port, pore, report

Orgy                – A secret rite, dedicated originally to Dionysus

Pagan              – Country dweller

Pardon            – To give wholeheartedly; related to donate

Personality      – From persona, to speak through a theatrical mask

Pharmacist      – Related to scapegoat, the drug that cures what it caused

Philadelphia     – City of brotherly love (“from the same womb”)

Philosophy       – Love of knowledge

Photograph     – Light-writing

Pneumatic      – Of spirit, spiritual

Pompous         – Solemn procession (Hermes psychopomp, guide to the underworld)

Pontiff              – To make a bridge; related to pontificate, pontoon, punt

Preposterous   – Before-behind

Privilege           – Law applying to one person, related to “private”

Problem           – Thing put forward, thrown; related to ballistics, dance

Provoke           – To call forth; related to vocation, vocal, voice, evoke, invoke

Psyche            – Invisible animating principle; Greek for “butterfly”

Pudendum      – Thing to be ashamed of

Rape               – To be carried away, related to rapid, raptor and rapture

Redeem           – To buy back

Remorse         – To bite back; related to mordant

Repent            – Related to penal, penalty, Pentheus (“man of sorrow”)

Resilience        – To jump again

Respiration      – To breathe again, from spiritus (breath of a god)

Respect           – To look at again

Ritual               – A counting; related to arithmetic

Sacrifice          – To make sacred

Sad                  – Related to sated, satiated

Savage            – Forest dweller

Scene              – Wooden stage for actors; tent or booth; giving shade

Slave               – A Slavic person

Soldier             – One who has been paid in gold coins (solidus); related to solid

Soul                 – Coming from the sea, the stopping place between birth and death

Source             – To rise, as a spring; related to resource, resurgent

Spirits              – That which can unite the elements of the philosopher’s stone.

Surveil             – Related to vigil

Symbol            – That which is thrown together; related to ballistic, dance

Symptom         – To fall together with

Talent              – Balance, weight; sum of money

Testify             – Swear on one’s testicles (?)

Therapy           – Attend, do service, take care of

Think               – Cause to appear to oneself; related to thought, thank

Thesaurus       – Related to treasure

Tragedy           – Goat song (originally to Dionysus)

Trophy             – From “to turn,” related to apostrophe, atrophy, tropical, trope

Vaccine           – Pertaining to cows

Value               – To be strong; related to valiant

Vengeance      – To set free; related to vindicate

Wander           – Related to wind

Weird               – Having a foot in each world

Whiskey           – Water of life

Xenophobia     – Fear of the stranger – or of the guest!

Zero                  – Empty place, desert; related to cipher, sunyata (Buddhist “emptiness)

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1 Response to Barry’s Blog # 154: Creative Etymology for a World Gone Mad, Part Two of Two

  1. Pingback: Barry’s Blog # 153: Creative Etymology for a World Gone Mad, Part One of Two | madnessatthegates

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