theory and study of the origins and history of words. Where
words come from is a fascinating subject, full of folklore and historical
lessons. Often, popular tales of a word's origin arise. Sometimes
these are true; more often they are not. To fully appreciate etymology,
one must have some knowledge of the history of the English language.
This helps in understanding such topics as why English adopted the
Anglo-Norman word for beef, yet retained the old Germanic word for
The study of
name meanings, is an important part of geneaology. It can tell us
alot about where our family originated, what they did for a living,
or even what they looked like
Over time, languages
change and evolve. This is due to naturally occuring changes in
pronunciation, vocabulary and grammar that occur over long periods
of time. For example, the
Old English word modor became the Middle English moder which eventually
became the modern English mother. One language may gain two different
dialects or even split into two different languages when speakers
are separated by physical or cultural barriers for extended periods.
the languages of the world, past and present, into various language
families. English belongs to a family of languages called the Indo-European
Language Family, which includes Greek, French, Russian, Hindi,
German, Irish, and many other tongues of Europe and Asia. It is
theorized that thousands of years ago all Indo-European languages
had a common ancestor, a hypothetical protolanguage. There are many
other families besides Indo-European, and there are attempts to
prove relations between the different families.
One way that
linguists prove that languages are related to one another is by
using cognates. A cognate is a related word in another language.
For example, the English word mother has cognates in several other
Indo-European languages: Greek meter, Russian mate, German mutter,
Sanskrit matri, and Irish mathair. These words all share a similar
sound, and thousands of years ago they were likely all the same
word in the same language.
many words of foreign origin, which are called loanwords.
A great deal of the English vocabulary is made up of French and
Latin loanwords, which were added by the French-speaking Norman
invaders who conquered England in the 11th century AD. Other languages
with which English speakers come into contact add to the vocabulary