noun et·y·mol·o·gy \ˌe-tə-ˈmä-lə-jē\

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

: the study of word histories

plural et·y·mol·o·gies

Full Definition of ETYMOLOGY

:  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
:  a branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies
et·y·mo·log·i·cal \-mə-ˈlä-ji-kəl\ adjective
et·y·mo·log·i·cal·ly \-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of ETYMOLOGY

  1. Several different etymologies have been proposed.
  2. 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


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

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile
ETYMOLOGY Defined for Kids


noun et·y·mol·o·gy \ˌe-tə-ˈmä-lə-jē\
plural et·y·mol·o·gies

Definition of ETYMOLOGY for Kids

:  the history of a word shown by tracing it or its parts back to the earliest known forms and meanings both in its own language and any other language from which it may have been taken


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