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'.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Synonym Etymologies M

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter M and mad. There are three usages for 'mad': as an adjective, as in 'insane'; as an adverb, as in 'oddly'; and as a verb, as in 'anger'. In all three cases the original sense seems to have been the adjective, this coming to English through the Germanic route and while the Old Saxon word gimed meant 'foolish', the Gothic version of gamaiths was used to mean 'wounded, crippled', and the Old Norse meitha 'to hurt, maim'. All these are derived from the Proto-Indo-European mei 'to change, move', a root which has also given us the word 'migrate'.

Insane is clearly derived from 'sane', itself from the Latin sanus 'sound, healthy', and from Proto-Indo-European seh 'to tie' and later used to mean 'to put in place or order'.

Derange is from the French desrengier 'throw into disorder' and thus the opposite of the reng 'line, row', related to Proto-Germanic hringaz 'circle, ring, curved', and back to Proto-Indo-European sker 'to turn, bend'.

Demented is from an obsolete verb dement 'to drive mad'. Here the first element is the negative 'de-', with the Proto-Indo-European men 'to think'.

Crazy is from the original 'craze', itself a Germanic word meaning 'to shatter, crush, break in pieces'. It seems likely to have come to English from Old Norse kraza 'shatter'.

Ardent is from the Old French ardant 'burning, hot, zealous'. Here the word came from Latin ardere 'to burn' and Proto-Indo-European as 'to burn' or 'glow'.

Zealous comes from 'zeal', itself from Old French zel and Latin zelus and Greek zelos all meaning 'ardour, rivalry, emulation'. All these can be traced to Proto-Indo-European ya 'to seek, request, desire'.

Fervent is another coming to English from Old French, and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European bhreu 'to boil, bubble, effervesce, burn'.

Eager, also from Old French where aigre 'sour, acid, harsh, bitter, lively, eager, active, forceful', came from Latin acrus and ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ak 'be sharp, rise to a point, pierce'.

Angry is from 'anger' and came to English from Old Norse angra 'hostile, distress, suffering, agony'. It can be traced back further to Proto-Germanic angaz and to Proto-Indo-European angh 'tight, painfully constricted, painful'.

Irate, or 'ire', comes from Old French ire and Latin ira 'anger, wrath, passion'. Ultimately from Proto-Indo-European eis, this word has produced innumerable words indicating passion, such as the Greek hieros 'filled with the divine' and oistros 'causing madness'; Sanskrit esati 'drives on' and yasati 'boils'; Avestan aesma 'anger'; and Lithuanian aistra 'violent passion'.

'Mad' appears in several phrases, including 'like mad', which was first recorded in 1650; 'mad as a March hare' from the 1520s; 'mad as a hatter' from 1829; one could not be a 'mad scientist' before 1891; and as 'mad as a wet hen' since `1823'.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Synonym Etymologies L

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter L and light.

Clearly there are two senses for the word - opposite of 'dark' and also of 'heavy'. In the illumination sense it is a noun which has not changed in meaning since the days of Proto-Indo-European some five thousand plus years ago where leuk also meant 'brightness' as well as 'light'. As an adjective, the term is also from Proto-Indo-European but this time the root is legwh meaning 'not heavy', or 'having little weight'. Note when the term first came to Old English it was used in the sense of 'not heavy' but also as 'easy to do, trifling, quick, agile'. Sticking with synonyms of the noun first, we come to ....

Bright is another from Proto-Indo-European where bhereg also meant 'shine, white'. Note the use of 'bright' in the sense of 'intelligent, quick-witted' is unrecorded prior to 1741.

Shine is likely from the Proto-Indo-European root skai meaning both 'shine' and ....

Gleam is another of Proto-Indo-European origin where ghel was used in the sense of 'shine' (and also the origin of the word for the shiniest of metals 'gold'). It is not as confusing as it seems but does take a little thinking about - simply two words with the same meaning, which have evolved into synonyms. Sadly we have no idea why that ancient language had two words for the same thing as earlier languages are unknown.

Glow shares a Proto-Indo-European root with 'gleam' in ghel. While the above came to English through the Saxons,'glow' reached our shores through the Norsemen.

Lustre came to English from Old French, to there through the Latin family of languages and ultimately Proto-Indo-European leuk 'brightness'.

Radiant shares an origin with, of all things, 'radiation', itself sharing a root with 'radius'. This Latin word radius would be difficult to beat when it comes to versatility, for it was used to mean 'staff, stake, rod, spoke of a wheel, ray of light, beam of light, radius of a circle'. Unsurprisingly the origins of this word are a mystery. Note, not until 1610 was this used to describe the bones of the forearms.

Glare is from the verb and, once again, can be traced to the Proto-Indo-European root ghel.

Brilliance, a form of 'brilliant', came to English from French and prioer to that Latin. For those who stress the word by adding an additional syllable at the beginning - ber-rilliant - they may be interested to know that berillare was the original Latin form and was used to mean 'to shine like beryl' and from the Latin name of the precious stone beryllus.

Wispy is one of the very few synonyms for the adjective, itself indicative of the comparatively recent use of the word in this light (pun intended). Derived from 'wisp', this connected to Middle Low German and Middle Dutch wispel meaning 'a measure of grain'.

Thin has come to English through the Germanic languages and is ultimately from Proto-Indo-European ten 'to stretch'.

What may also be of interest is the first known usage of terms using 'light' as one elemt. 'To make light of' first recorded in 1520; 'see the light' was in use by 1680s; 'out like a light' as recent as 1934; 'nightlight' is from 1851; 'lightbulb' comes from the 1920s (and jokes about lightbulbs have been told since 1971); 'light show' (as in a rock concert) first appears in 1966; 'lightfingered' is first seen in the 1540s; and 'blacklight' first used in 1927. One phrase, first recorded in the 1590s, has fallen out of usage and that is 'light-skirts', sais to describe a 'woman of easy virtue'.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Synonym Etymologies K

Continuing the look at synonyms through the eyes of the etymologist, this time it is the letter K and kid. Hardly any surprise to find this began as the young of the goat, its etymology is uncertain, and later applied to children, first recorded in 1590.

Child is first seen in Old English cild where it referred to the unborn infant or foetus. It came from Proto-Germanic kiltham, a word which also gave Gothic kilpei 'womb' and inkilpo 'pregnant'. Note the Old Swedish kulder was used to mean 'litter', while Old English cildhama may have been defined as 'womb' but actually was literally 'child home', and in the 15th and 17th centuries 'child' was nearly always referring to a girl.

Baby is a diminutive of 'babe', itself short for the 13th century word baban and likely imitative of baby talk (as is 'babble').

Toddler is derived from 'toddle', a word first seen in Scotland and northern England and of unknown origin.

Infant is an interesting word which is a combination of 'in' and 'fari'. Here 'in' is used as a prefix meaning 'not', while 'fari' is the verb 'to speak'. A pretty good description of a young infant.

Minor began as a Latin word meaning 'small', and is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root mei also meaning 'small'.

Juvenile is from the Latin iuvenilis meaning 'youthful'. It came from iuvensis 'young man, one in the flower of his age'. Note this did not refer to one who was just maturing, or approaching maturity, for the Romans this was a man aged between 21 and 40 - there's hope for us yet.

Youth is, unsurprisingly, from the same source as 'young' and yet 'youth was the earlier word. Another of Germanic origins, it was more often used to refer to young warriors and even the young of cattle in its earliest times.

Teenager is named from those in their teens (thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, etc.). Teenager has only ben used since 1922, prior to that it was 'teener', and earlier still simply 'teen'.Note the element 'teen' is from 'ten' - this fourteen is four-ten, sixteen is six-ten, and so on.