Etymology Quotes

Quotes tagged as "etymology" Showing 1-30 of 43
Mary Daly
“The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a [person] trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin'.”
Mary Daly

Penelope Lively
“We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse; we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard. More than that, we speak volumes – our language is the language of everything we have read. Shakespeare and the Authorised Version surface in supermarkets, on buses, chatter on radio and television. I find this miraculous. I never cease to wonder at it. That words are more durable than anything, that they blow with the wind, hibernate and reawaken, shelter parasitic on the most unlikely hosts, survive and survive and survive.”
Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger

Eve Ensler
“It's a totally ridiculous, completely unsexy word. If you use it during sex, trying to be politically correct-- "Darling, could you stroke my vagina?"-- you kill the act right there. I'm worried about vaginas, what we call them and don't call them.”
Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues

Ashwin Sanghi
“Omniscient, omnipotent, omnivorous and omnipresent all begin with Om.”
Ashwin Sanghi, The Krishna Key

Mary Roach
“The suffix 'naut' comes from the Greek and Latin words for ships and sailing. Astronaut suggests 'a sailor in space.' Chimponaut suggests 'a chimpanzee in sailor pants'.”
Mary Roach, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

“Although, fanciful's origin circa 1627 made me still love the word, even if I'd ruined its applicability to my connection with Snarl. (I mean DASH!) Like, I could totally see Mrs. Mary Poppencock returning home to her cobblestone hut with the thatched roof in Thamesburyshire, Jolly Olde England, and saying to her husband, "Good sir Bruce, would it not be wonderful to have a roof that doesn't leak when it rains on our green shires, and stuff?" And Sir Bruce Poppencock would have been like, "I say, missus, you're very fanciful with your ideas today." To which Mrs. P. responded, "Why, Master P., you've made up a word! What year is it? I do believe it's circa 1627! Let's carve the year--we think--on a stone so no one forgets. Fanciful! Dear man, you are a genius. I'm so glad my father forced me to marry you and allow you to impregnate me every year.”
Rachel Cohn & David Levithan, Dash & Lily's Book of Dares

Michael Ondaatje
“The word should be thinkering.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Vladimir Nabokov
“I cannot separate the aesthetic pleasure of seeing a butterfly and the scientific pleasure of knowing what it is.”
Vladimir Nabokov

Terry Pratchett
“Do you know where 'policeman' comes from, sir? ... 'Polis' used to mean 'city', said Carrot. That's what policeman means: 'a man for the city'. Not many people knew that. The word 'polite' comes from 'polis', too. It used to mean the proper behaviour from someone living in a city.”
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

“The nice guys are all over there, in seventh place.”
Leo Durocher, Nice Guys Finish Last

Denis Guedj
“Where would you be without etymology'? Lea asked sarcastically.
'I think I might find words a little less interesting,' said Mr Ruche.”
Denis Guedj

“Terrorism is the use of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of a political aim. The highest political aim is the creation and enforcement of law. Cops use violence and intimidation to enforce law. Therefore, all cops are, by definition, terrorists.”
Dane Whalen

“Auctions are a venerable selling institution, in use since the time of Herodotus. The word comes from the Latin auctus, meaning to increase. An obscure term for auction, one guaranteed to impress friends and neighbors, is the Latin word subhastare. It is the conjunction of sub, meaning "under," and hasta, meaning "spear." After a military victory, a Roman soldier would plant his spear in the ground to mark the location of his spoils. Later, he would put these goods up for sale by auction.
¹The highest bidder was called the emptor, whence the term caveat emptor.”
Rakesh V. Vohra, Principles of Pricing: An Analytical Approach

Alan Moore
“Aleister Crowley once stated that the most important grimoire, or book of magical instruction, that anyone could ever conceivably own would be an etymological dictionary, and in my opinion he was exactly right. I keep it right here by my desk, and just 10 minutes ago it confirmed for me that I had the spelling of “proprioception” right all along, even though my spell-checker had raised a crinkly red eyebrow.”
Alan Moore

Александр Солженицын
“Иногда мы хотим солгать, а Язык нам не даёт. Этих людей объявляли изменниками, но в языке примечательно ошиблись — и судьи, и прокуроры, и следователи. И сами осуждённые, и весь народ, и газеты повторили и закрепили эту ошибку, невольно выдавая правду; их хотели объявить изменниками РодинЕ, но никто не говорил и не писал даже в судебных материалах иначе, как "изменники Родины".

Ты сказал! Это были не изменники ей, а её изменники. Не они, несчастные, изменили Родине, но расчётливая Родина изменила им [...]”
Александр Солженицын, Архипелаг ГУЛАГ. Полное издание в одном томе

Terry Pratchett
“Vimes had believed all his life that the Watch were called coppers because they carried copper badges, but no, said Carrot, it comes from the old word cappere, to capture.”
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

Gene Edward Veith Jr.
“The author relates that the word "OBSCENE" springs from the concept in Greek drama that certain actions would be performed outside the scene or off the stage. He clarifies that the Greeks did not shy away from shocking actions, but they knew that portraying them in the audience's view would drown out the emotional subtlety of the character development and ethical dilemmas.”
Gene Edward Veith Jr., Reading Between the Lines

“Few now would associate de-roofing with the police, but the verb 'to detect' originated in detegere—a detective raises the roof, figuratively.”
Lucy Sussex

Philip Ball
“Better still [than pure sugar] was the remedy known as theriac, the root of the English word 'treacle,' which was kept in ornate ceramic jars on the shelves of every self-respecting apothecary shop. The name comes from the Greek therion, meaning 'venomous animal,' for theriac was supposed in Classical times to counteract all venoms and poisons.”
Philip Ball, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science

Dalai Lama XIV
“...The words Dalai Lama mean different things to different people, that for me they refer only to the office I hold. Actually, Dalai is a Mongolian word meaning 'ocean' and Lama is a Tibetan term corresponding to the Indian word guru, which denotes a teacher. From Freedom in Exile, the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama”
Tenzin Gyatso

Criss Jami
“A great many skeptics are unfortunately put to waste, in that they vainly focus their energy on ridiculing a certain tiny denomination of Biblical fundamentalism, a denomination seated just one chair away from unbelief. They, the skeptics, cannot believe because they are the most literal of fundamentalists: of those who must interpret Scripture as simply an obsolete, absolutely dead compilation of intellectual incompetence. Nevertheless, by all means, because, after all, that is supposed to happen - Scripture states of itself that all thought and interpretation is folly without the Holy Spirit - however the ironic thing is the case in which one believes that the Bible is, in its true essence, completely outdated. And like flashes in a pan, he hints at his naivety, that he knows little about the world around him, little about those who live in it. Either that, or he knows little about what Scripture really says in relation to the world around him, little about what it really says in relation to those who live in it. It is as though he is the one dead to the world and it to him. He has not the Spirit to give life to his own spirit; he can only possibly understand Scripture as long-deceased rather than the modern world's very living narrative.”
Criss Jami, Healology

“A journey or pilgrimage also follows the parabolic curve of an arch: it swings out from a known point and returns symmetrically to a point on the same line or plane, but farther along. For this reason, ancient philosophers chose the arch as a symbol for the process of interpretation. That is why teaching stories, such as those of Jesus or Buddha, are known as parables.”
John Tallmadge, The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City

“Etymologically, a homestead is a home place, the focus of a story. And the word "home" derives from the ancient root for bed or couch, the place where we lie down to rest. The journey begins, then, in repose, unconsciousness, or sleep. We go out to awaken, hoping to return both wiser and more refreshed. The path soars outward, then bends back, inscribing its parabolic arc.”
John Tallmadge, The Cincinnati Arch: Learning from Nature in the City

“The word mortgage originates in French. it literally means 'death grip'.”
Michael McGirr, The Lost Art of Sleep

Emma Richler
“He wonders aloud at the origins of valentining.

'You're right,' Rachel says. 'It is a verb. Can be. And birds valentine each other, make mating calls. And usually mate in mid-February. You see?'

'But why Valentine?' asks Zach. 'Why valentining?'

'There were many Saint Valentines,' offers Tasha. 'I don't know what the link is between their martyrdom and love letters.'

Zach is not very interested in the old tradition or the archaic verb. He is not bothered by the mating calls of passerines or the saints named Valentine and their associated symbols—he is merely fishing. Does Rachel think the tradition silly? If he were to send her a valentine, how strange would that be?”
Emma Richler, Be My Wolff

“The poet doesn’t know what the poem, finally, will be “about” when he uses the word’s etymology as a starting point before he knows the twists and turns of its history. For example, when I decided to write about vanilla as part of a series of poems about food, I researched its etymology, discovering that it comes from the Spanish vainilla, diminutive of the Latin vagina (“sheath”). Thus, the pod-shaped bean was named after the vagina, which itself was named for the function it provides for the penis.”
Natasha Sajé, Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory

Mary Norris
“Etymology” is from the Greek and means the study (logia) of the “literal meaning of a word according to its origin” (etymon).... It can be a huge help in spelling. For instance, people sometimes misspell “iridescent.”... Rather than just try to memorize the spelling, if you look at the etymology—study the entrails of the word—you find that “iris, irid” is a combining form that comes from the Greek Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and the messenger of the gods.... [O]nce you know that “iridescent” comes from Iris, you’ll never spell it wrong.”
Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen

Mark Forsyth
“The Chinese for pay is pei, and the Farsi Iranian word for bad is bad. The Uzbek for chop is chop, and in the extinct Aboriginal language of Mbaram a dog was called a dog. The Mayan for hole is hole and the Korean for many is mani. When, in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, an Afghan wants to show you something, he will use the word show; and the ancient Aztecs used the Nahuatl word huel to mean well.

Any idiot can deduce from this that all the languages of the world are related. However, anyone of reasonable intelligence will realize that they are just a bunch of coincidences. There are a lot of words and a lot of languages, but there are a limited number of sounds. We're bound to coincide sometimes.”
Mark Forsyth, The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

Mark Forsyth
“The Oxford English Dictionary itself feebly admits that 'In Middle English it is often doubtful whether blac, blak, blacke, means "black, dark," or "pale, colourless, wan, livid".'


Utterly illogical though all this may sound, there are two good explanations. Unfortunately, nobody is quite sure which one is true. So I shall give you both.

Once upon a time, there was an old Germanic word for burnt, which was black, or as close to black as makes no difference. The confusion arose because the old Germanics couldn't decide between black and white as to which color burning was. Some old Germans said that when things were burning they were bright and shiny, and other old Germans said that when things were burnt they turned black.

The result was a hopeless monochrome confusion, until everybody got bored and rode off to sack Rome.


The other theory (which is rather less likely, but still good fun) is that there was an old German word black which meant bare, void, and empty. What do you have if you don't have any colours?

Well, it's hard to say really. If you close your eyes you see nothing, which is black, but a blank piece of paper is, usually, white. Under this theory, blankness is the original sense and the two colors—black and white—are simply different interpretations of what blank means.”
Mark Forsyth, The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll through the Hidden Connections of the English Language

David Graeber
“The English word “free,” for instance, is derived from a German root meaning “friend,” since to be free meant to be able to make friends, to keep promises, to live within a community of equals.”
David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years

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