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noun et·y·mol·o·gy \ˌe-tə-ˈmä-lə-jē\

Simple Definition of etymology

  • : an explanation of where a word came from : the history of a word

  • : the study of word histories

Full Definition of etymology

plural et·y·mol·o·gies

  1. 1 :  the history of a linguistic form (as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language

  2. 2 :  a branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies

et·y·mo·log·i·cal play \-mə-ˈlä-ji-kəl\ adjective
et·y·mo·log·i·cal·ly play \-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of etymology

  1. Visible just beneath the entries are tantalizing glimpses of the lexicographer's craft: scouring periodicals for fresh coinages, poring over competing dictionaries in search of elusive etymologies and hounding writers and scholars in the service of … “ear candy” or plain old “duh.” —Margalit Fox, New York Times Book Review, 18 June 1995

  2. Professionals have always tried to seal the borders of their trade and to snipe at any outsider with a pretense to amateur enthusiasm (although amateurs who truly love their subject, as the etymology of their status proclaims, often acquire far more expertise than the average time-clock-punching breadwinner). —Stephen Jay Gould, Natural History, February 1991

  3. True etymology, if there is such a thing, seeks to displace our attention back in time, to roots, whereas the “popular” variety tries to update words, to familiarize them where the so-called science estranges them. —Walter Redfern, Puns, 1984

  4. Several different etymologies have been proposed.

Origin of etymology

Middle English ethimologie, from Anglo-French, from Latin etymologia, from Greek, from etymon + -logia -logy

First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

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February 12, 2016

of, relating to, or suggestive of marble

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