Word of the Day : December 2, 2015


noun eh-tuh-MAH-luh-jee


1 : the history of a word or phrase shown by tracing its development and relationships

2 : a branch of linguistics dealing with etymologies

Did You Know?

Readers of the Word of the Day are already familiar with etymologies—that is, word histories. 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.


As the etymology of "December" reports, the month gets its name from the Latin "decem" meaning "ten"—a nod to its former status as the tenth month in the early Roman calendar.

"'Sicario' opens with an etymology of the title. The word, which means hit man, derives from 'Sicarii'; the Sicarii were a band of zealots who attacked Romans in Jerusalem with the intention of expelling them from the Holy Land." — Sonny Bunch, The Washington Post (online), 24 Sept. 2015

Test Your Vocabulary

Unscramble the letters to create an adjective that describes words that are related to each other by derivation, borrowing, or descent: GAOENTC.



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