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Etymology: The Real Meaning of Words

Updated: Jan 6

Words are just words to most people. They are spelt in a specific way, have a common meaning and are useful for communicating thoughts, either verbally or in written form. And that's true. But in fact there is far more to words than you may realise.



For a start, words can have multiple meaning's depending on context. Take the word ‘mystery’ for example, most commonly used to refer to something being difficult or impossible to understand. Originally, however, mystery referred to religious secrets and divine knowledge. 'Weird’ originally meant ‘supernatural, unearthly’, ‘having the power to control destiny, now instead it would commonly be used as an insult.


Words have morphed over time and can give an interesting glimpse into our ancient history, even meaning something quite different before. The term ‘psychometry’ / ‘psychometric’ refers in the modern world to objective testing of ability, personality and cognitive functions, previously it referred to psychic abilities. Times changed and the focus on science and logic led to many words with a metaphysical undertone being suppressed or re-defined.


At school you may have been encouraged not to use the words 'nice’ and 'lovely'. This was probably a good thing when you find out that 'nice' originally meant ‘ignorant’, and ‘lovely’ didn't mean pleasant or attractive as it does now, but ‘love’, which refers to something pleasing, desired, something that would remain.


Most words we use now originated from Latin or Ancient Greek, which is why these seemingly irrelevant languages are still taught in some schools. In fact they open up a doorway to our ancient past, and the study of classics is helpful for gaining a deeper understanding of almost everything.


So choose your words wisely, because you might be saying something quite different to what you intend to. It can certainly be enlightening to open up the world of words, the study of which is called ‘etymology’. You don't even need to get your dictionary out, instead just try typing ‘word def’ into your browser. Up will come the different meanings and languages of origin.


Take it a step further and type ‘word wiki’ and you may well be introduced to a whole world of new knowledge about religion, our historical roots, codes often symbolic and used as a language to communicate secrets. It's interesting looking up the meaning of names too. Just type 'name wiki’ or 'name meaning ancient Greek Latin' and see what comes up. Mine means ’vision, light & truth’. I really rather liked that.


But now it’s time for me to get back to reality and start to tackle the tasks I should have done already today. It perhaps won’t surprise you to know that the word ’task’ comes from the word ’tax’ which rather aptly refers to ’strain', 'demand', being 'weighed down' 'burdened'....

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