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Surname Meanings for:

• Bashford
• Cousin
• Ferguson
• Stoddart




Etymology is the the 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 cow.

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.

Linguists divide 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.

English has 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 as well.


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Page Last Updated: June 13, 2006

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