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Posts Tagged ‘synonyms’

I was thinking about our term in simple math for the part of an equation following the equals sign.  Generally, we call this the “answer”.  In specific cases, it is the “solution”.  Somewhat familiar with alternate definitions, I began to wonder how these words came to be applied to math.  Here is what I found from the Online Etymology Dictionary about their origins. 

 

Answer – is an Old English word meaning “swearing against”, suggesting a sworn statement rebutting a charge.  As early as the 1300’s it was used to mean an answer to a problem as well. 

 

Solution – In the late 1300’s we received this word from the French – or possibly directly from Latin, solutionem “a loosening or unfastening”.  

 

Remedy – comes from a Latin root meaning literally “to heal” with the “intensive prefix” re- , meaning “fully” or “again.  This definition, “make whole” is a common definition of old words for “heal, cure”, along with “tend to” or “conjure” or “ward off, defend”. 

 

Cure –  *kois- is the suggested Proto-Indo-European root, meaning “be concerned”.  In the late 1300’s it began to be used for “take care of”. 

 

Aid – came to English around 1400 by way of the French, originally from the Latin adiutus “give help to”. 

 

Help – is the Old English helpan “help, support, succor; benefit, do good to; cure, amend”.  Our modern word actually sounds more like the Proto-Indo-European root, *kelb-.

 

Amend – The verb form is now generally supplanted by the shortened form, mend.  But this word has been in English since the 1200’s, “to free from faults, rectify”.  It comes from the Latin prefix ex- and Proto-Indo-European root *mend- “physical defect, fault”.   

 

Fix – is another word likely originating in the Proto-Indo-European, the root *dhigw- “to stick, to fix”.  The sense of “repair” dates from 1737. 

 

Antidote – comes ultimately from the Greek antidoton, literally “given against”. 

 

To God be all glory, 

Lisa of Longbourn

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If you ever get that craving to find treasure, just for the thrill of finding, get into words.  Open a dictionary, read the definition that catches your eye first, and ask yourself questions.  What did that one word mean in the definition?  What are the root words, and where are they from?  How is that word related to other words that sound or are spelled similarly but whose definitions you never before associated?  Is there a list of synonyms?  How are they similar to the first word?  What variations do they put on it?

If you get really interested in the hunt, pick up a book about interesting words.  There are many of them.  I have been a fan of JRR Tolkien for years, and his books contain many interesting words.  In one reading of Lord of the Rings, I kept a list.  Even if the words were familiar, I listed ones that sounded good, or that had an intriguing spelling – words that stood out.  Then I started looking up their definitions and etymologies.  There is a book I’m reading now, Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary.  Over half of the book is word studies.

You can learn interesting things, like the history of “ent.”  It comes from old Germanic and Norse words for giants.  In those ancient days when the word was in common use, the writers attributed still older ruined cities and half-remembered mythologies to “ents.”

Or you can start wondering about words.  How is dwarf related to orcs and ogres?  To rocks?  Especially in mythology, and very intentionally in Tolkien’s myths, relations between words reflect relations between the objects they describe.  If the word “dwarf” derives from a word for “rock,” then maybe dwarves themselves come from rocks.

EVEN if you are wrong (as I often am) you’ve started your imagination on a great story.  And along the way, you’ve undoubtedly found some absorbing treasures of words and history.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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