Thursday, 30 June 2022

Synonym Etymologies N

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter N and new. As a simple and monosyllabic word, 'new' has hardly changed since Proto-Indo-European newo and with the same meaning. That we find other Germanic languages with very similar words: Old Saxon niwi, Old Frisian nie, Middle Dutch niuwe, Old High German niiwl and Danish (and Swedish) ny is telling, as are the non-Germanic languages with similar words, such as: Sanskrit navah, Persian nau, Hittite newash, Greek neos, Lithuanian naujas, Old Church Slavonic novu, Russian novyi, Latin novus, Old Irish nue, and Welsh newydd. The point is, with it being common to so many languages, it can not have ever meant anything else and must be ancient in the extreme. For the same reason that the word is so ancient, synonyms of 'new' are rarely needed. Indeed many of the following are only synonyms due to modern usage.

Fresh has, for most of its history, simply been used to refer to food, albeit not as we would think today but in the sense of 'not salted' - salting being the method of preservation for much of human history. Not until the 14th century did it come into use as a synonym for 'new' and it's roots are unclear, even though it is common to most Latin and Germanic languages.

Novel is used in this sense, at least since the 15th century, at least a century before it was used as a noun. Interestingly, the word 'novel' is from 'novella', itself a Latin term meaning 'new things'.

Original is clearly from 'origin', and while it seems odd to be talking of the origins of the word 'origin', he goes. This is from Latin originem. 'a rise, commencement, source, descent', and can betraced to the Proto-Indo-European heri 'to rise'.

Contemporary is a complex word, which is a good indication it is comparatively modern. Thus we can get rid oc the first syllable, leaving the root 'temporal', itself from Proto-Indo-European temp-os 'stretched' and ten 'to stretch', both used in the sense of 'time'.

Upgraded comes from 'up' added to 'grade', itself a word which has meant 'to step, walk' for much of its existence and found in Latin gradus and Proto-Indo-European ghredh.

Recent comes from the Latin recentem meaning 'fresh, young' as much as 'new'. It can also be seen in Sanskrit kanina 'young'. Old Irish cetu 'first', and Breton kent 'earlier'.

Current in the 'contemporary' sense is unknown prior to around 1600. It came from the noun, describing movement and, as an adjective, is used in the sense of 'keeping up with the times'. The noun comes from Proto-Indo-European kers 'to run'.

Latest, the superlative of 'late', is first seen in 1520 and used to mean 'the last in order'. The word 'late' has an odd history, for the Old English laet meant 'slow, sluggish, lax', Old Norse latr 'lazy', Gothic lats 'weary', and all from Proto-Indo-European le 'to let go'.

Mint - and I could not resist including a little modern slang. Little surprise to find it came to be used in this sense from the idea of a freshly-minted coin. The place where a coin is produced, the 'mint', is derived from the same source as the word 'money' - Latin moneta, first seen in English in mynet, the Old English word meaning 'coin, money'.

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