Sunday, 7 October 2012

Etymology Of Words

Today I thought I'd feed your brains with some interesting facts about the etymology of words. Namely, how words in our language have come into being. Here's just a few of my favourites:

Assassin: a murderer, especially one who kills a politically prominent person for fanatical or monetary reasons.

The word assassin originates from the Crusades. Members of a certain Muslim sect performed murders as part of religious duty. These acts were performed under the influence of hashish (a narcotic/intoxicant) and so these people became known as hashashin, which meant 'eaters or smokers of hashish'. Hashashin evolved into the word assassin. Possibly to do with the fact that it's impossible to say hashashin five times very quickly.

Atomic: extremely minute

The word Atomic originates from Ancient Greece, surprisingly enough. The philosopher Democritus developed a theory that the ultimate components of matter must be particles that cannot be divided. He called these fundamental particles 'atoms' or 'uncutables'. The irony is that Science has developed and we have discovered sub-atomic particles- an oxymoron in itself.

Oxymoron: a figure of speech that combines contradictory terms, eg a ground pilot

The concept of sub-atomic particles led us nicely on to our next word- oxymoron. Oxymoron originates from two greek words: Oxy, or sharp; and Moron, or blunt. Therefore, the word oxymoron is in itself, an oxymoron.

Religion: the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.

Interestingly enough, the word religion comes from the Latin word 'religare', which means 'to bind'...

Dunce: A person who is slow at learning; a stupid person.

Funnily, the word dunce comes from the medieval philosipher John Duns Scotus, whose writings were so impenetrable to readers that his name became synonymous with the idea of a bad scholar.

Maudlin: Self-pityingly or tearfully sentimental

I quite like this word! It comes from Mary Magdelene, a religious figure, who is often depicted crying.

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