Where do these words come from? | Summary and Q&A

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April 2, 2022
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Simon Clark
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Where do these words come from?

TL;DR

Explore the origins of words, tracing back to Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European languages, and delve into the interesting etymologies behind various English words.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the oldest word in the English language?

The word "water" remains unchanged for approximately 6,000 years, making it one of the oldest words in English, with its roots in Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European languages.

Q: What is the core meaning of the word "star"?

The word "star" originates from Proto-Indo-European and, in its original form, meant a "burning or shining thing," representing early understanding despite our ancestors' lack of knowledge about celestial bodies.

Q: How did the Vikings influence the English language?

The Vikings introduced various words into English, such as "skull," which replaced earlier Anglo-Saxon terms like "hide" and "craft." The presence of a hard k sound in words like "skull" is often indicative of Old Norse origins.

Q: What are loanwords and calques in the English language?

Loanwords are words directly borrowed from other languages into English, while calques are phrases that are translated word for word. For instance, "sudoku" is a loanword, while "ball lightning" is a calque from German.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Language tracing back to Proto-Germanic and Proto-Indo-European reveals the unchanging word "water" for about 6,000 years, making it one of the oldest in the English language.

  • The word "star" has its origins in Proto-Indo-European, where it originally meant a "burning or shining thing," reflecting the core meaning of the word.

  • The English language is a composite of various languages, evidenced by the introduction of words like "skull" by the Vikings, replacing previous Anglo-Saxon terms such as "hide" and "craft."

  • Loanwords, calques, and double loanwords demonstrate the influence of other languages on English, with examples such as "anime" originating from a double loanword process.

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