|Saturday, January 19, 2002||
History and meaning
comes from the Greek words etymon (true) and logos (word).
The underlying meaning of etymology, according to the Greeks, was
finding the underlying or true meaning of words. The derivation of a
word was its etymologia. Modern etymology, the study of etymons, deals
with the history more than the meaning. The word dollar has an
intriguing history; words like this one encourage etymologists to pay
more attention to history rather than meaning. In the mountains of
northwestern Bohemia, just a few kilometers south of the East
German-Czechoslovakian border, is the small town of Jachymov. In the
sixteenth century, a silver mine was opened nearby and coins were
minted to which the name joachimstaler was applied, literally
meaning ‘of Joachim’s valley’, as the silver was mined near old
Joachimstal, modern Jachymov. In German, this was shortened to taler.
Shortly afterwards the Dutch form daler was borrowed into
English to refer to the taler and other coins that were
patterned after it. From this the American Constitution adopted the
word dollar in 1785 as the main currency unit of the United States of
America, to be taken up later by over 30 countries around the world.
The earliest books were actually rolls of papyrus, a writing material that was made from the pith of the papyrus plant and used by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The Greek word for papyrus was biblos or byblos, which they derived from the name of the Phoenician city Bublos [now Jubayl, Lebanon], an ancient port from which papyrus was exported to Greece. Scrolls, papyri and, later, books were all called bublos, leading onto biblia, little book, from which is derived the word bible. The same source gives us bibliophile.
In the English society of the late Middle Ages, a standard article of feminine dress was the wimple; a cloth headdress that surrounded the neck and head, leaving only the face uncovered which was called a gorgias. An elegant and elaborate gorgias was so much the mark of a well-to-do and fashionable lady that gorgias became an adjective meaning ‘elegant’ or ‘fond of dress’. The adjective passed into Middle English in the form gorgayse, from which comes the word gorgeous.
In a language of multiple origins like
Hindi, there are many sets of words where etymology would give the same
meaning to all the words in a set but custom and usage say something
different. Each word has a special function and the words in a set can’t
substitute for one another. Nafa and laabh both mean gain
but nafa is profit in a bargain while laabh is gain. Kothi
and kothri both mean apartment but kothi is a big,
modern house while kothri is a very small room.