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(ĕtĭmŏl`əjē), branch of linguistics that investigates the history, development, and origin of words. It was this study that chiefly revealed the regular relations of sounds in the Indo-European languages (as described in Grimm's lawGrimm's law,
principle of relationships in Indo-European languages, first formulated by Jakob Grimm in 1822 and a continuing subject of interest and investigation to 20th-century linguists.
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) and led to the historical investigation of language in the 19th cent. In the 20th cent. linguists continued to use etymology to learn how meanings change, but they came to consider that the meaning of a form at a given time must be understood without reference to its history if it is to be understood at all. The term etymology has been replaced by the term derivation for the creation of combinations in a language, such as new nouns formed with the ending -ness. See grammargrammar,
description of the structure of a language, consisting of the sounds (see phonology); the meaningful combinations of these sounds into words or parts of words, called morphemes; and the arrangement of the morphemes into phrases and sentences, called syntax.
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; dictionarydictionary,
published list, in alphabetical order, of the words of a language. In monolingual dictionaries the words are explained and defined in the same language; in bilingual dictionaries they are translated into another language.
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inquiry into and accounts of sources and development of words. In modern linguistics, a distinction is drawn between the diachronic study of language (etymology), and its synchronic study (structural analysis) (see SYNCHRONIC AND DIACHRONIC). Etymology 's concern is with the origins and changes in meaning of particular words, and also with the historical ancestry of groups or ‘families’ of languages, e.g. Indo-European, Amerindian, etc.



the branch of linguistics that investigates the origins of words, their original structures, and their semantic relationships.

The term “etymology” was introduced more than 2,000 years ago by the classical philosophers. In the broad sense, etymology is the reconstruction of the phonetic and derivational elements of a word. In addition to demonstrating relationships between sounds and identifying identical morphemes, it accounts for the selection of morpheme combinations in specific derivational patterns. The term “etymology” is also applied to an account of the derivation of a word.

Characterized by a multiplicity of possible solutions, etymological study makes extensive use of hypothesis and seldom arrives at definitive results. Etymology is a special case of the explanatory sciences, whose constructs, unlike those of the descriptive sciences, are markedly hypothetical in nature.

The basis for etymological research is provided by comparative-historical linguistics. Consequently, etymology has proved most successful in dealing with the languages that have undergone the most extensive comparative-historical study—for example, the Indo-European and Finno-Ugric languages. Cases of secondary etymological interpretation or the linking of words that do not come from the same source are called folk, or false, etymologies.


Pisani, V. Etimologiia. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from Italian.)
Toporov, V. N. “O nekotorykh teoreticheskikh osnovaniiakh etimologicheskogo analiza.” Voprosy iazykoznaniia, 1960, no. 3.
Trubachev, O. N. “Zadacha etimologicheskikh issledovanii v oblasti slavianskikh iazykov.” Kratkie soobshcheniia lnstituta slavianovedeniia AN SSSR, 1961, issues 33–34.
Etymologic Edited by R. Schmitt. Darmstadt, 1977.


References in periodicals archive ?
The translators also provide a lengthy introduction, covering the sources and influence of the Etymologies along with Isidore's life and works.
There are also acronyms in associated slang or informal jargon, and some of these have false etymologies.
As for etymologies, AMANI is the earliest for both 1919 and 1960.
There is, it is true, no explicit 'signpost' in the text that Virgil is here engaging in etymologizing, nor do the Greek words appear which are the objects of this learned exercise, but the same can be said, for instance, of the etymologies (all taken from Bartelink 85-8) of [Greek Words Omitted] (Aen.
One can only admire the author's honesty in liberally dispensing attributes such as "absurd" to so many etymologies of Egyptian words proposed in the past by others.
A search of the etymologies in the electronic DOST produces only the dubious parallels for *alf-rice of Haly Kirk and Pillou-uair; cf.
The complete corpus presents 165,000 entries with 225,000 clear definitions; new words and meanings total 10,000; etymologies and usage examples come to 73,000.
If one counts only etymologies that obey the sound-rules regularly (that is, as they are stated) then the sound-rules outnumber the etymologies.
And what about popular etymologies (which we could paraphrase as the wrong true meanings of certain words), whose exposure shows that crayfish have as little to do with fish (from Old French crevice) as Jerusalem artichokes have with Israel's capital (gira-sole, Italian, meaning "turns toward the sun," related to the common sunflower).
I suspect that most of us who teach these authors have addressed the changing meanings of some of these words, however, I learned a great deal from all of Knapp's etymologies.
Breeze, 'Celtic Etymologies for Middle English Hurl "Rush, Thrust" and Fisk "Hasten"', Leeds Studies in English, xxiv (1993), 123-32; 'A Brittonic Etymology for Luche "Throw" in Patience 230', SELIM, iii (1993), 150-3; 'Middle Irish Dordan "Buzz, Roar"; Northern English Dirdura "Uproar, Din'", Eriu, xlv (1994).