Etymology’s Definitions

Samuel Johnson’s 1755 “A Dictionary of the English Language” does not define etymology.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defined it as:[1]
1 – That part of philology which explains the origin and derivation of words, with a view to ascertain their radical or primary signification.
In grammar, etymology comprehends the various inflections and modifications of words, and shows how they are formed from their simple roots.
2 – The deduction of words from their originals; the analysis of compound words into their primitives.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defined it as:[2]
1 – the history of a linguistic form (such as a word) shown by tracing its development since its earliest recorded occurrence in the language where it is found, by tracing its transmission from one language to another, by analyzing it into its component parts, by identifying its cognates in other languages, or by tracing it and its cognates to a common ancestral form in an ancestral language
2 – a branch of linguistics concerned with etymologies defined it as:[3]
1 – the derivation of a word.
2 – a chronological account of the birth and development of a particular word or element of a word, often delineating its spread from one language to another and its evolving changes in form and meaning.
3 – the study of historical linguistic change, especially as manifested in individual words.

Lexico defined it as:[4]
1 – The study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history.
1.1 – The origin of a word and the historical development of its meaning.

Etymology’s Etymology

“Late Middle English from Old French ethimologie, via Latin from Greek etumologia, from etumologos ‘student of etymology’, from etumon, neuter singular of etumos ‘true’.”[4]

1350-1400 – “Middle English, from Latin etymologia, from Greek etymología, equivalent to etymológ(os) “studying the true meanings and values of words” (étymo(s) “true” + lógos “word, reason”) + -ia noun suffix; see etymon, -y3

14th century – “14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1. Middle English ethimologie, from Anglo-French, from Latin etymologia, from Greek, from etymon + -logia -logy”[2]

Mid-15th century – “an account of the particular history of a word”[5]

1640s – “the linguistic science that investigates the origins of a word, its relationships with words in other languages, and its historical development in form and meaning” dates from the 1640s.”[4]

1640s – “a modern branch of linguistic science treating of the origin and evolution of words”[5]

“Ancient and medieval etymologies are mostly conjectures, puns, or folk etymologies, and are generally wildly incorrect.”[5]

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[1] – Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

[2] – “Etymology.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

[3] – Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

[4] – Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

[5] – Accessed 8 Oct. 2020.

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