The Etymology reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Etymology

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Etymology is the study of the origins of words. Some words have been derived from other languages, possibly in a changed form (the source words are called etymons). Through old texts and comparisons with other languages, etymologists try to reconstruct the history of words — when they entered a language, from what source, and how their form and meaning changed.

Etymologists also try to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information (such as writing) to be known. By comparing words in related languages, one can learn about their shared parent language. In this way, word roots have been found which can be traced all the way back to the origin of the Indo-European language family.

The word etymology itself comes from the Greek ήτυμος (étymos, meaning of a word) and λόγος (lógos, science).

Table of contents
1 Etymology of the English vocabulary
2 Basic ideas in etymology
3 See also
4 External links

Etymology of the English vocabulary

As a language, English is derived from the Anglo-Saxon, a dialect of West Germanic (as was Old Low German), although its current vocabulary includes words from many languages. The Anglo-Saxon roots can be seen in the similarity of numbers in English and German, particularly six~sechs, seven~sieben, eight~acht, and ten~zehn. Pronouns are also cognate: I~ich; thou~Du; we~wir; she~sie. However, language change has eroded many grammatical elements, such as the noun case system, which is greatly simplified in Modern English; and certain elements of vocabulary, much of which is borrowed from French. In fact, more than half of the words in English either come from the French language, or have a French cognate. However, the most common root words are still of Germanic origin.

French was introduced into England when the Normans conquered England in 1066 (see Norman Conquest). During the French reign on the British isles, the ruling class spoke French while the peasants spoke the English of the time. This led to many paired words of French and English origin. For example, beef is cognate with the modern French bœuf, meaning "steer". Veal with veau, meaning "calf". Pork with porc, meaning "pig", and poultry with poulet, meaning "chicken".

English words of more than two syllables are likely to come from French, often with modified terminations. For example, the French words for syllable, modified, terminations and example are syllabe, modifié, terminaisons and exemple.

English has proven accommodating to words from many languages. Scientific terminology relies heavily on words of Latin and Greek origin. Spanish has contributed many words, particularly in the southwestern United States. Examples include buckaroo from vaquero or "cowboy", alligator from el legarto or "the lizard", and rodeo. Cuddle, eerie and greed come from Scots, behemoth from Hebrew, perestroika, balalaika, taiga, tundra and sputnik from Russian, and lagniappe from Quechua. See also loanword.

Basic ideas in etymology

See also

External links