Definition of etymology
1 : the history of a linguistic form (such 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 : a branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies
etymologicalplay \ˌe-tə-mə-ˈlä-ji-kəl\ adjective
etymologicallyplay \ˌe-tə-mə-ˈlä-ji-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
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Examples of etymology in a Sentence
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
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
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
Several different etymologies have been proposed.
Recent Examples of etymology from the Web
One of Simone’s favorite tips: having a suitcase of words and a toolbox for a word’s etymology.
However, as Reuters noted, the lawyers did not give their own etymology for the term.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'etymology'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Commonly Confused: etymology and entomology
The etymology of etymology itself is relatively straightforward. Etymon means "origin of a word" in Latin, and comes from the Greek word etymon, meaning "literal meaning of a word according to its origin." Greek etymon in turn comes from etymos, which means "true." Be careful not to confuse etymology with the similar-sounding entomology. Entomon means "insect" in Greek, and entomology is the study of bugs.
Origin and Etymology of etymology
Middle English ethimologie, from Anglo-French, from Latin etymologia, from Greek, from etymon + -logia -logy
First Known Use: 14th centurySee Words from the same year
ETYMOLOGY Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of etymology for English Language Learners
: an explanation of where a word came from : the history of a word
: the study of word histories
ETYMOLOGY Defined for Kids
Definition of etymology for Students
: 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
Seen and Heard
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