What is Etymology?
Etymology is a branch of linguistics involving the study of a word’s history, origins, and/or development. It involves analysis on how some words were derived from other words, and how the meaning of words changed over time.
Language has been evolving through time and people have long been fascinated with the “stories” behind the words. In today’s world, numerous words are added to the human dictionary every now and then. With the advent of technology, more and more popular street and technical words are now part of basic languages. The word “text” is an old word but found a new ‘use’ with the popularity of mobile phones. “Text” used to be just a noun referring to some written material, but now it has become a verb. People now say “I’ll text you later” or “I’m tired of texting”. This particular word is just one example on how words evolve through time and how words may find new meaning as influenced by various environmental factors.
There are various concepts that help in the study or analysis of how words evolve. One such concept is “Extension”. In this way a particular word “widens” or “extends” its meaning. Another concept is “Narrowing” wherein the meaning of words are somewhat reduced. “Amelioration” is another concept in which words change their meaning from something negative to something with positive connotation. An example of this concept is demonstrated on the word “wicked”. This word used to only refer to bad or evil, but now it may be used in a positive note, like when praising a song performance. In this case, one could say, “That singer is so good and so wicked”.
There are a lot more ways that words get its meaning. Some words were coined because of historical background, while other words became part of basic language by “borrowing” from other languages. Some words also develop by mixing with other words, with some changing their spelling through time. The study of Etymology helps people better understand even simple words. Knowing the word’s history helped experts know more about the cultures and civilizations of the past and how they relate to the present.