141 Most Important Philological Word Notes

141 Most Important Philological Word Notes

Here is a list of few important words with their origin, etymology, history and meaning. These philological word notes will definitely help all students of English Language and Literature to enhance their knowledge as well as to prepare them for the examination.





  1. ADMIRAL-Admiral, which was formerly amiral, is of Arabic origin. It is a fragment of the phrase amir-al-bahrwhich means “commander” of the sea.


  1. ANGEL-The Old English form of the word was engelwhich is from Latin angelus, (Greek aggelos). It is a pre-Christian Latin loan word. The Anglo-Saxons adopted this Latin word before they migrated to Britain and long before they were converted to the Christian religion.


  1. ASSASSINATION– The word is formed by adding Latin suffix-ionto the word assassinate which is, in its turn, formed by adding Latin suffix-ate to assassin. Assassin is derived from the Arabic word hashashin, the name of a fanatical sect in the East who intoxicated themselves with hashish and who, like the Thugs committed murders for the glory of their divinity, Shakespeare makes use of “assassination” only in Macbeth (1,7,2).


  1. ACHE– The modern word ache (as in toothache, headache, bodyache) is a curious cross of the Middle English noun (ache) whose spelling has been kept, and the Middle English verb (aken) whose pronunciation (with k sound) has prevailed. Baret (1573) says expressly. “Akeis the verb of this substantive ache, ch being turned into k“.


  1. ADVICE– The Middle English form of the word was avis(avus) which was borrowed from French. The intrusion of d in advice is due to the Latin influence of the Renaissance and post-Renaissance period, because during and after the Renaissance many a French word already in English) was remodelled into closer resemblance with their Latin originals (Avys was originally derived from Latin advisum).


  1. ADVENTURE– The Middle English form of the word was aventurewhich was derived from Old French aventurer. The tagging of d to ME aventure is the product of the Renaissance influence upon the English language. After the Renaissance many English words which were originally derived from French were remodelled after their Latin originals. The ME form is still retained in the phrase at aventure, where a has been apprehended as the indefinite article (at a venture).


  1. AMATEUR– An amateur is – or was – a person who loves a game or subject. The word comes from the Lat. amare (to love). Thus a painter like Sir Winston Churchill may properly be called an ‘amateur painter’ for though his works may indeed have genuine artistic merit. But presently the meaning is changed into ‘a person who is not specialist or professional’.


  1. ARISTARCHY-The word is derived from the proper name Aristarch, and means “a body of severe critics”. But the word is wrongly interpreted in the most dictionaries as a body of good men in power.”


  1. ALMS–  OE. aelmesseis derived from Greek eleemosure. ME. form of word was almesse, plural almesses. It is significant that the word occurs in connections where it is impossible to decide, from the context, whether a singular or plural is intended (e.g.”ask alms”, “give alms”) In the Authorised Version of the Biblethe word occurs eleven times, but eight of these are ambiguous, two are clearly singular and one is plural. Nowadays the association between the s of alms and the plural ending has become so firm that an alms is said and is written very rarely. (eleemosune >almesse> alms.)




  1. BRIDAL– The word is an illustration of that linguistic phenomenon which is known as “Obscuration of Compounds” which means the loss of identity of the separate parts of a compound-the loss which results from the loss of stress, Old English compound bryd-ealubecame in course of time bridal through phonetic change.


  1. BEG– The word is an example of back-formations. The arof beggar was mistaken for a derivative suffix, and as such it was subtracted from beggar to get the new verb to beg.


  1. BEAUTIFUL– The word is an example of hybridism which is made up of parts derived from two or more different languages. Beautiful is a hybrid formed of the French word beautyand the English suffix-ful. According to H. Bradley the word beautiful was not known to have been used by any writer before Tindale, a Bible translator of the 16 the century. He is of the opinion that Tindale certainly did not invent it, but there is no doubt that by introducing it into the People’s Book, he helped to bring it into general use.


  1. BUSK– The word is borrowed from the Danes, because the sound combination sk(written skor sc) in the word points to the Norse origin, since genuine English words have instead an sh sound. According to Jespersen the word is of Norwegian origin, and is illustrative of the fact that there were many Norwegians among the Scandinavian settlers.


  1. BANKRUPT–  It is an Italian word, latinized from bancarotta, and the English owe this word to their commercial relations with the Italians.


  1. BATH– (cp. bathe)- In the English language there is a tendency to have nouns and verbs of exactly the same sound, and as a result there are some interesting doublets in English. Besides the old noun bath and the verb to bathe, we have the recent verb to bath(She did not bath her baby today) and the noun bathe (I went to the river yesterday and had a very decent bathe).


  1. BRIDEGROOM– The word exemplifies how folk-etymology sometimes transforms only part of a word. In the word bridegroomOE.gum ‘man’ has become groom by association with groom, ‘an attendant’.


  1. BREECHES– OE. brocformed its plural brec. (cf. gos, ges, goose, geese) but gradually broc went out of use with the result that brec (subsequently breech) came to be looked upon as a singular and a new plural breeches formed. The word breeches in an instance of those words where the original singular is not in use, or the manner of forming the plural is no longer perspicuous.


  1. BODICE– It is really nothing but a by-form of bodies. It is an instance of words (invoices, quincesetc.) which have a double plural ending. The unusual sound of the first ending (voiceless s where the ordinary ending is voiced as in joys, sins etc.) facilitated the forgetting of the original function the s written ce, and as such bodice came to be looked upon as a singular and a new plural can now be formed from it by adding the ordinary plural ending s.


  1. BOYCOTT– Boycott illustrates the philological phenomenon that names of persons are a fruitful source of new words in English. The word boycott is derived from the name of Captain Boycott, an Irish landlord who ostracized about 1880. Boycott treated the cenants so truly that they rose in revolt against him and boycotted him (i.e. refused to have social or commercial relation with him) . This word has in recent times found its way into other languages. In English it is used as noun or verb.


  1. BRETHREN– it is an instance of double formed from the original plural brether. When brether came to be used collectively for the members of a single family, it became necessary to have a second plural to express brothers of many families, and brethrenwas formed by adding to brether the en ending. In Modern English we restrict brothers which replaces brether, to those of one family, and use brethren for those who call one another brother, though belonging to different families.

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  1. BISHOP– The word is derived from OE, biscop which was derived from Latin episcopus. This word is as old as the introduction of Christianity in England. This word is also an example of apheresis which means the loss of an unaccented vowel at the beginning of a word. And in bishop we see one of the earliest examples of apheresis occurring in an English word, –bishop .


  1. BY-LAW–  The English owe many law-terms to the Scandinavian settlers, which has been conclusively shown by Professor Steenstrup in his well-known work on Danelag. The most important of these law-terms is the word law itself, known in England from the 10th century in the form laguwhich must have been the exact Scandinavian form. By-law is now felt to be a compound of the preposition by and law, but originally by was the Danish by meaning town or village (found in words like Derby, Whitby etc.). and the Danish genitive-ending is preserved in the other English form byrlaw which is now obsolete. By-law is probably from obsolete byr-law, local custom” (C.O.D.).




  1. CAB– The word is derived from cabriolerby the process of what is known as Shortening, that is, the clipping of long foreign words. Like many other words formed by shortening, cab has undergone a sense-development of its own. A caband a cabriolet are not the same kind of vehicle at all.


  1. CALL– It is a Scandinavian loan word. It occurs for the first time in the glorious patriotic war-poem, written shortly after the battle of Maldon (993 AD.) which it celebrates. Call shows how early the linguistic influence of the Danes began to be felt and reveals that the relations between the English and the Danes were not altogether hostile.


  1. CHARLOTTE- The French influence upon the English language has not been restricted to one particular period, and it is interesting to compare the forms of the old French loan-words with those of recent ones. This comparison will reveal the changes which French has undergone since the Middle Ages. Where a chin an originally French word is pronounced, as in changes, chaunt etc., (with the sound-group (S), the loan is an old one; where it is sounded as in champagne (with simple S), the loan is a recent one. But it is curious that the two pet names should now be spelled in the same way Charlie, although they are distinct in pronunciation: the masculine is derived from the old loan Charles, and has, therefore, the sound (1S), the feminine is from the recent loan Charlotte with the sound (S).


  1. CENSURE– The word is derived from Old French censurewhich was derived, in its turn, from Latin censura. The word found its way into the English language in the Middle English period. The word has also semantic significance. Of late it has undergone the degeneration of meaning by being specialised in meaning. In Elizabethan English it was a neutral word, and was used in the sense of judgement’ as well as in that of ‘blame.’ Shakespeare has used the word in both the senses. He uses it in the sense of judgement’ in Othello [II, 3, 191-93).

“The gravity and stillness of your youth

The world hath noted, and your name is great

In mouths of wisest censure”


  1. CERTAINTY– (cp. certitudeCertainlyis a French word and certitude a Latin word. These two words are often used indiscriminately, but there is now a tendency to restrict certitude to merely subjective certainty, as in the following lines from Cardinal Newman’s “Apologia pro Vita Sua” : “my argument is that certitude was a habit of mind, that certainty was a quality of propositions that probabilities which did not reach to logical certainty, might suffice for a mental certitude etc.”


  1. CHILDREN– Like brethrenit is an instance of double plural formed from an original plural childer which is still preserved in the Northern dialect of England. When childer came to be used collectively for the offspring of a single family, a second plural became necessary to express children of many families. And the result was the formation of children by adding en ending to the plural childerChilder has now fallen out of use in Standard English, and children now expresses children of a single family and of many families.


  1. CHEAP– It is a Latin loan-word which the Germanie forefathers of the English had adopted before they left their continental homes to settle England. Cheap(OE.cēap), which originally meant bargain, price, is derived from Latin caupones which meant “wine-dealers, keepers of wine shops or taverns”. Caupones were the chief type of Roman merchants with whom the Germanic forefathers of the English dealt when they were on the continent.


  1. CHRISTMAS– There are many compounds in English which have undergone processes of phonetic change on account of their use without distinct consciousness of their etymological meaning; Christmas is an example of this fact. Christ’s massis now Christmas, with an altered pronunciation which quite disguises the first word. It is a fixed compound.


  1. CHURCH–  It is a pre-Christian loan-word. It is derived from OE.ciricewhich was derived, in its turn, from the Greek word kuriakón (house) of the Lord’. The English knew the word (kuriakón) so well that when they became Christians, they did not adopt the word universally used in the Latin Church and in the Romanic languages (ecclesia, chiesa etc.) and they “even extended the signification of the word church from the building to the congregation, the whole body of Christians.” (Jespersen).


  1. CLIMAX–  Climaxis one of those Greek loan-words which are used in English with a different signification from the classical ones. The Greek word klimax from which climax is derived means ‘a ladder or gradation’. In English it is used in the sense of culminating point.


  1. COOK– It is a Latin loan-wordwhich the Germanic forefathers of the English had adopted before they left their continental homes to settle in Britain. The Old English form of the word was coc which came from Latin coquus. The adoption of such words as byden (barrel), kitchen (OE cycene from Latin coquina), scutel (dish), orc (pitcher, cook etc. suggests a complete revolution in the art of cooking of the forebears of the English. So cook is a milestone of general history.)


  1. COMPANION–  The word has a diversified history. In its ordinary sense of associate’ it is from the French compagnonwhich was derived from Roman companionem(comi’with and panis bread’). As a nautical term it is a corruption of the French chambre a la compagne (or the Italian camera della compagna) which meant the pantry’ or storeroom on the ship’s deck. Perhaps the English word passed through the Dutch languages (kompanje) where from many nautical terms have got into English. In the Elizabethan England companion in the snese of ‘associate’) was often used in a bad sense like fellow now.


  1. COURT– It is a French loan word. Historically the word is very important, because it belongs to the list of those early French words which indicate the fact that the conquerors (Normans) formed the upper classes of the English society. That is why we see that almost all the words relating to government and the highest administration are French. Courtis one of these words. Philologically also the word is important. The older French words have been, we know, so fully assimilated to the genius of the English language that they have followed its successive changes in pronunciation and stress. while, on the other hand, the later French loan-words have entered into the English language with their modem French pronunciation. Court is the Old French word, and as such has been fully assimilated to the English language, and has been subjected to the successive changes in pronunciation and stress.


  1. COURTSHIP– It is an instance of hybridism. Strictly speaking we have a hybrid (a composite word formed of elements from different languages), as soon as an inflexional ending is added to a French word. Courtshipis formed by adding English suffix -ship to the French word courtCourtship . The significance of the word lies in the fact that Shakespeare first uses it.


  1. CULPRIT -The word illustrates a curious instance of word-making by shortening. It comes from the strange, corrupt Norman French once used in English law courts. After a prisoner had pleaded not guilty’, the reply made on behalf of the king was ‘culpableprest‘ which meant (he is guilty. (and are ready to prove it). In the reports of criminal cases the phrase was monly abbreviated cul prest, and afterwards it was corruptly made into prit. Later on, as a result of the clerks of the King’s practice of using the syllables culpritas an oral formula which was followed by the question will you be tried ?”, addressed to the prisoner, it came to mean ‘guilty man When culprit became a current word with a new sense, the use of the oral formula was discontinued.


  1. CAMOUFLAGE– We owe this word to the First World War. It is from French camoufler, ‘disguise’. Though originally a military term it is now also used as a general term, and as a general term it means “means of throwing people off the scent.” The word is also an exmaple of what Barber calls conversion, that is, the transfer of a word from one grammatical category to another, (for example from verb to noun or from noun to verb), because in English the word is also used as a verb (to camouflage).




  1. DAINTY–  Originally the word was a noun meaning a delicacy. It is derived from Old French daintiewhich is from Latin dignitatem. Though originally a substantive, it is now also used as an adjective. So the word is an example of conversion, that is, the transfer of a word from one grammatical category to another (for example, from verb to noun or from noun to adjective).


  1. DAISY– The word is an example of the obscuration of compounds which means the loss of identity of the separate elements of compounds. Thus the old compound dayes eyehas now become daisy through phonetic change. In daisy the compounding elements (dayes and eye) are so obscured that we never think of it as containing two elements.


  1. DARKLING– Darkling is an adverb. It was formed by adding the suffix-ling which occurs in many other adverbs, now mostly obsolete, to dark. But in such a sentence as “I listen darkling,” the suffix – linglooked exactly like the ending -ing with the happy result that a new verb to darkle was formed from the adverb by subtracting -ing.


  1. DEBT– The Middle English form of the word was dettewhich is from Old French dette. The French dettewas derived from Latin debitum. The intrusion of b into debt is due to the Latin influence of the Renaissance period, for quite a number of French words were remodelled into closer resemblance with their Latin originals. The incoming of b in debt has affected the spelling of the word, and not the pronunciation.


  1. DEVIL– Devilis the Greek diábolos, ‘slanderer’, ‘traducer’. This word was used as a Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Sätan(the adversary) who was the accuser or slanderer of the just, as in the first chapter of Job. Roman Christianity took the Greek word into Latin as diabolus, and from Latin it has passed into the Teutonic languages. The Anglo-Saxons adopted the Greek (or Latin) word devil before they went to Britain, and long before they were converted to the Christian religion.


  1. DIE– Die(M.E. deghen) is from Old Norse deyaDeath (deap) and dead were OE. noun and adjective as they are now, but the corresponding verbs were steorfan and sweltan. The Scandinavian verb deya obviously was more closely associated with the OE noun and adjective than the OE verbs, and as such it was taken over by the English to replace steorfan and sweltan.


  1. DISCIPLE– Disciple(OE descipul, ME deciple) is from Latin discipulis. The original Latin sense of the word was that of a pupil’ or ‘scholar’. In English it is more or less limited to the twelve Disciples of Jesus or to similar applications.


  1. DOUBT – Doubt, the Middle English form of which was doute, is from Old French doute. The bof doubt is due to the Latin influence of the Renaissance period, for during and after the Renaissance quite a number of French words of Latin origin were remodelled into closer resemblance with their Latin originals. The remodelling of the French (also English) douteafter its Latin original dubitare resulted in the introduction of b into the word. It is interesting to find that the b in doubt as in debt has thrust itself into spelling, but has failed to assert itself in pronunciation.


  1. DREAM– There are many words in English which have adopted the signification attached in Scandinavian to the corresponding words. Dreamillustrates this fact. It meant in Old English “joy, mirth, revelry” and was commonly used of the pleasures of the warriors relaxing in the hall over their beer or mead, but the modern meaning of the word is taken over from Old Norse draumr (Old Saxon drūm, Old High German troum).




  1. EARL– OE. eorlmeant vaguely a ‘noble man’ or more loosely a brave warrior’ or ‘man’ generally. But “under Knut it took over the meaning of the Norse jarl, ‘an under-king’ or governor of one of the great divisions of the realm, thus paving the way for the present signification of earl as one of the grades in the (French) scale of rank.” (Jespersen)


  1. EASTER– The word, which now means the festival of Christ’s resurrection, is derived from eastronwhich was the name of an old pagan festival, called after Austro, a goddess of spring. It is one of those OE. words which were, after the introduction of Christianity in England, turned to account to express Christian ideas, the sense only being more or less modified.


  1. EDITOR– The Latin word editor(from Latin verb édere) passed un changed into English in the sense of “the person who gives to the world a book or other literary work of which he is not the author”. The editorhas an ending which coincides in form with that of English agent-nouns, so that it has naturally suggested the coinage of a verb to edit (meaning to prepare for publication as an editor does) by subtracting the ending -or(-er). So the verb to edit is an example of back-formations.


  1. EDUCATION – The word is formed from Latin edicatiomeaning ‘brining up’ (of the young) by adding the French suffix-ation. The Latin educatiois not derived from the Latin verb edúco meaning to draw out; so education does not mean “drawing out of the child’s faculties”. In their book “Wonde and their Ways in English Speech” Greenough and Kittredge say that “nothing could be more erroneous” than to take education as derived from Latin edaco and in the sense of drawing out of the child’s faculties. They say that when educo came to be employed in many other senses than the original sense of bringing up from the egg to the chicken or from infancy to mature years, a special verb edúco which is only possible as a denominative verb from a real or supposed noun edur one who brings up or rears was made for this special meaning (i.e. bringing up), and this educo with its derivative noun edacatio was applied especially to training of children”. To quote Greenough and Kittredge, “We may believe that the proper method of education is to draw out the latent faculties of the pupil, but we can find no suggestion of that method in the etymology of the word itself”.


  1. EGG– It is a Scandinavian loan word. The Old English forms of the word were eyeyren. For a long time there was a struggle between the native (English) eyand the Scandinavian egg, and ultimately the intruder (Scandinavian) succeeded in ousting the legitimate heir (ey). Caxton has given, in a well-known passage, a graphic description of this struggle between the English ey and the Scandinavian egg.


  1. EKE – The word illustrates the fact that many adverbs had, in the Elizabethan period, another signification than their present one. The adverb ekehas been a comic expression in the Elizabethan period. It occurs only three times in Shakespeare (twice in “Merry Wives of Windsor”, where it is used by Pistol and the Host, once in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” where it is used by Flute). As an adverb the word is of disputed origin; perhaps it is cognate with Old High German ouh, and Old Norse auk.


  1. ENORMOUS -There are many words in English which have undergone a peculiar kind of semantic change which consists in the addition of emotional connotation to their primary sense. Enormousis an example of this kind of semantic change. In its etymological sense it merely expresses the fact that something passes the ordinary or prescribed limits”. (H. Bradley). In the English of former times it often occurs in this matter-of-fact use. Thus “an enormous appetite formerly meant what we should now call an abnormal appetite. But now-a-days the word has taken on emotional connotation. Thus when we use the word enormous, we mean to indicate not only what is abnormal or unusual, “but that it is so in such degree as to excite our wonder, indignation or contempt”.(H. Bradley).


  1. EQUAL– It is derived from Latin equalis. The French derivative egal of he original Latin was for more than two centuries the commoner form. Equalwhich is now the only recognised form, was apparently a more learned form and Chaucer used it in Astrolabe, though in his poems he uses egal. Shakespeare generally uses equal, but egalis found a few times in some of the old editions of his plays.




  1. FAD– The word is derived from fadaireby the process of what is known as Shortening or clipping. It is a case of shortening in which the end of long foreign words is clipped and the beginning is retained. It is one of those shortened words which have become so firmly established as to make the full words pass completely into oblivion.


  1. FOLK-It sometimes happens that when both the native and its foreign synonym have survived in the English language, the latter has become the more popular, the former being relegated to the higher or poetical style. Folkis the native (English) word, while people is a French loan word. None will deny that people is a more popular, more expressive and more natural term than folk. So far as folk and people are concerned, it is hard to agree with Jespersen’s observation that “The former (the native word) is always nearer the nation’s heart than the latter (the French word), it has the strongest associations with everything primitive, fundamental, popular, while the French word is often more formal, more polite, more refined and has a less strong hold on the emotional side of life.” People is neither formal, nor refined nor polite and is much more popular than folk. Folk may have primitive associations, and emotional connotation, but this is because of its association with the poetical compositions. A great and popular poet dramatist like Shakespeare rarely uses folk. He has used folk only four times and folks ten times. Shakespeare evidently looked upon the word as a low-class word, Folk is rare in the Authorized Version of the Bible and Milton never uses it.




  1. GAIN– The modem gain(noun and verb) was borrowed in the fifteenth century from French, but it curiously coincided with an earlier noun gain meaning “advantage, use, avail, benefit, remedy’ and a verb to gain meaning “to be suitable, or useful, to avail’, and both the noun and the verb are from Old Norse.


  1. GET-AT-ABLE-This is one of the derivatives which are formed by adding the English suffix -ableto composite verbal expressions- get at+able. Though get-at-able, like come-at-able is pretty frequently heard in conversation, most people shrink from using it in writing.


  1. GENTEEL– There are many French words which appear in English in more than one form. These words, which go back, by diverse courses, to the same original form, constitute what is known as doublets and triplicates. The words gentlegenteeljaunty, all of which were borrowed from French at different times constitute an interesting triplicate. They represent three layers of borrowing from the same word, but all of them have the same initial sound.


  1. GET – Getis a Scandinavian loan word. The corresponding OE word was yeteGet and yetewere in use in England for a long time after the Scandinavian settlement. Ultimately yete fell out of use, but the Scandinavian get remained in circulation. Ger illustrates one of the most important tendencies of semantic development. There are many words in English which have undergone so much generalisation of meaning that they mean little or nothing but may stand for almost anything. Get is one of these words which have gradually faded into their present vague and shadowy condition. Thus say: ‘He gets tired’. His chariot wheels get hot by driving fast. It is peculiarly idiomatic in certain phrases such as ‘to get rid of’, ‘to get angry’. ‘to get the better of etc. But originally to get meant simply to ‘acquire’.


  1. GIFT– The OE form of the word was yift, and the word meant “the price paid by a suitor in consideration of receiving a woman to wife” and in the plural marriage, wedding”. The Scandinavian word ‘gift‘ modified the word not only with regard to pronunciation but also with regard to meaning, for the modern meaning of the word has come from the Scandinavian word. “No subtler linguistic influence can be imagined than this, where a word has been modified both with regard to pronunciation and meaning, and curiously enough has by that process been brought nearer to the verb from which it was originally derived.” (Jespersen).


  1. GOSPEL– The Old English godspellliterally ‘good tiding’ (which early became godspel through misreading the first element as ‘God’ instead of ‘good’ ) is now gospel. So gospel is an example of the obscuration of Compound that is, the loss of identity of the separate parts of a compound as a result of the loss of stress. Gospel also illustrates the phenomenon of assimilation – in gospel as in gossip d has heen assimilated to s.


  1. GOSSIP– Gossipis an example of the obscuration of compound. Middle English godsip ‘godfather intimate friend’ has become gossip on account of the loss of stress, which has caused the obscuration of the separate parts of the compound The word has also undergone pejorative sense-development, because now it means simply “idle talker”, “idle talk’. Like gospel gossip is an illustration of assimilation–in gossip has been assimilated to s. The word also exemplifies that grammatical phenomenon which goes by the name of conversion, that is, the transfer of a word from one grammatical category to another. The verb to gossip is formed from the noun gossip in the sense of ‘to talk idly. Thus gossip presents a curious oscillation between noun and verb: gossip (a) noun: godfather, intimate friend, idle talker, (b) verb: to talk idly. (c) new noun: idle talk.




  1. HALE (WHOLE)– Whole(formerly hool) is an English word, while hale is the Scandinavia word. These two words-whole and hale were in the Old English period, the two different forms for the same word. They existed side by side for a long time, and ultimately both the forms survived, though they have developed slightly different meanings. There is an old phrase which both the forms were united- “hail and hool”.


  1. HAWK(vb) – It is an example of back-formations. The erin hawker: though an integral part of the word, was mistaken for a derivative suffix, and as such was dropped to get the new verb to hawk.


  1. HANDBOOK– The Old English form of the word was handbocwhich was used for the one kind of handy books the clergy were in special need of But in the Middle English period handboc came to be disused and the French/ (Latin) manual took its place. In the sixteenth century the Greek enchiridion (meaning a small handy book) found its way into the English language. In the nineteenth century the old compound word handbook made its reappearance, but the English had grown so accustomed to using strange and exotic words that such a natural and expressive word as handbook was treated as an unwelcome intruder. Of late the word has gained much ground and is preferred to enchiridion and manual. Enchiridion might be said to have fallen out of use.


  1. HEATHEN– Heathen the Old English form of which was haethenis derived from Germanic haith ‘heath’. The word is derived in close imitation of Latin pagarrus which is from pagus ‘a country district”.


  1. HELPMATE– This word offers a striking example of word-making through misunderstanding. In the Bible of 1611, the Hebrew words of Genesis ii., 18 were literally rendered “an help meet (i.e. fit, suitable) for him.” Readers mistook the two words help meetfor a compound with the result that help meet became current as a synonym for one’s “partner in life’. “People have been known to suppose that it meant ‘one who helps to make ends meet, but commonly when the word has been analysed at all, the second element has been imagined to be synonymous with mate, or perhaps an incorrect form of it. This notion suggested the formation of helpmate which is a very good and correctly made compound, though it did originate in a blunder” (H. Bradley)


  1. HENPECK– It is an example of back formations. The edin henpecked, though an integral part of the word, was mistaken for a derivative suffix, and as such was dropped to get the new verb to henpeck. Henpeck is not a compound made of a verb as the second (i.e. peck), and an object as the first (i.e. hen), part, because to form compounds with a verb as the second, and the object or a predicative as the first part is not usual in Germanic languages.


  1. HODGE-PODGE– Hotchpot(from French hocher‘shake together’ and por) was made hotch-potch for the sake of rime; then the final ich was changed into dgehotch-podge was thus changed into hodge-podge.


  1. HOUSEWIFE– The Old English form of the word was huswif (hus + wif). OE huswifin course of time lost w, both vowels were shortened, s was sounded (z) and f became v or even lost. The changes in pronunciation were followed by those in meaning. In the derived meanings ‘needle-case’ and ‘jade’ we find the forms huzzif, huzzive and huzzy (hussy). But in the original sense the word was constantly revived: housewife.


  1. HUSSY– The word is an example of what is known as the obscuration of compound, that is, the loss of identity of the separate parts of a compound as a result of the loss of stress. OE. compound hus-wif‘house wife’ has now become hussy through phonetic change. We now hardly suspect that the word is a compound, so great has been the obscuration of the parts. The word was once a respectable word, but it has now undergone degeneration of meaning and has come to mean simply ‘a pert girl’ or ‘woman of light character’.




  1. INNINGS – In some words the sof the plural has become fixed, as if it belongs to the singular. Innings illustrates this philological phenomenon. The use of innings which is plural in form as a singular is due to the fact that “the logical idea of a single action or thing has proved stronger than the original grammar”. Meansis another Word which is plural in form, hut often singular in use.


  1. INCH– It is a Latin loan word which the Germanic forefathers of the English had adopted before they left their continental homes to settle England. The Old English form of inchwas ynce, which came from Latin uncia, ‘twelfth part’. I-mutation points to very early borrowing-  u>y (i) : uncial>ynce>inch


  1. INTERNATIONAL– The word was coined by Bentham in 1780 “It marks linguistically the first beginning of the era when relations between nations came to he considered like relations between citizens, capable of peaceful arrangement according to right rather than according to might Jespersen).


  1. ISLAND– The word, the OE. and ME. forms of which were respectively ieglandand iland is from Old Norse ieg. The intrusion of s into ME. iland due to its association with the French isle (Now ile) which was adopted later on. We should note that the French word affected the spelling, and not the pronunciation.


  1. 78ITS– Before 1600 A.D., his was neuter as well as masculine. After that time its came to be used for the neuter. Florio who was a foreigner first uses in 1998 and several times in his later works. In Shakespeare its occurs a few times only in those plays which exist only in editions published after his death. The Bible of 1611 has no its. “The use of its became general in the seventeenth century, but for a long time there seems to have been a feeling that the older his or her was more dignified” (H.Bradley).




  1. KANGAROO– It is an Australian word, taken by the English settlers of Australia.


  1. KINDERGARTEN– English has taken over the German word ‘kindergarten’ unchanged. The word illustrates the English tendency to swallow foreign words raw instead of translating the foreign expression into some native equivalent.


  1. KINE– It is an instance of double plural formed from the original plural ky (still preserved in the Northern dialect). When kycame to be used collectively for the herd of a single owner, a second plural (ky-en>kine) was formed by adding-en ending to the existing plural ky to express the ky emot many owners. To quote Emerson. The archaic plural kine comes from OE. cy, the mutated form of cü ‘cow’ to which has been added the -en(ne) ending of such a word as oxenKine is therefore a double plural.


  1. KIRK– Churchand kirk are doublets – they both go back, by diverse courses, to the same original form (i.e. Greek kuriakon), kirk is a Scandinavian and church an English, form for the same word. For a long time they were lo use in English side by side, but ultimately kirk has come to survive in dialects only. It is interesting to see that Coleridge has used kirk for church in his  “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” a number of times :

“To walk togсther to the kirk And all together pray” (Line 606-7) and

“Is this the hill? is the kirk?” (line 466)


  1. KISS– The OE. form of the word was cyssan(Old Norse kyssa) which is from Germanic kussjan. The word is an example of conversion, that is, the transfer of a word from one grammatical category to another, for example from verb to noun or from adjective to noun. Kiss which was originally only a verb is now used unchanged also as a noun: “Fretted by sallies of his mother’s kisses” (Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality, line 88).


  1. KITCHEN– It is a Latin loan-wordwhich the Germanic forefathers of the English had adopted before they left their continental homes to see in Britain. The Old English form of the word was cycenewhich came to Latin coquina. The adoption of such words as byden (barrel), kitchen, scule (dish), orc (pitcher), cook(OE coc from Latin coquus), suggests a complete revolution in the art of cooking of the forebears of the Anglo-Saxons. So kitchen is a milestone of general history.




  1. LANGUAGE– The ME. form of the word was langagewhich was from French langage. The Latin form of the word is lingua‘the tongue”. The French form langage was used in England for centuries, then after the Renaissance it became language by a curious crossing of French and Latin forms.


  1. LOOT– It is one of those words which the English owe to India. Loot, a Hindi word, was learnt by the English soldiers in India, and has now found its way into the English vocabulary in the sense of “goods taken from enemy, spoil, booty, illicit gains made by official” (C.O.D.). The word is also used as a verb.




  1. MACHINE– It is a French word which is from Latin machina. The word is an illustration of the linguistic maxim. “everyman is his own specializer.” Special senses of words depend mainly on our business, profession, or chief interest in life, but in some cases they come from accidental associations of ideas or from obscure habits of thought. Machineis a term which applies to all kinds of mechanical contrivances. But to the bicycle-rider it suggests at first the particular kind of mechanical contrivance on which he rides. To the tailor, on the other hand, it suggests at first the sewing machine by means of which he earns his livelihood. So, machine, like wheel, engine etc. illustrates a peculiar tendency of semantic development.


  1. MICE– Miceis one of those irregular plurals in English which were formed in old English by mutation (e.g. man-men, foot-feel, mouse-mice, louse-lice), and which have not gone out of use even after-es has become the universal plural ending.


  1. MINT– Mint, the OE. form of which was mynet, is from Latin moneta‘money’. It is one of those pre-Christian Latin loan-words which the Germanic forefathers of the English (i.e. the Angles and Saxons) adopted from the Romans while they were still in their continental home.


  1. MOB– It is an example of shortening, and of that type of shortening where the end of a whole phrase is lopped off. The Latin phrase mobile vulgushas thus been shortened into mob.


  1. MUTTON– Mutton is a historically significant word. It throws a flood of light on the reciprocal relations between the Normans and the English. Muttonis a French loan word. After the Norman Conquest the living animals like sheep continued to bear their English names, but their flesh as used for food was denoted by French words like mutton. The point is explained by the fact that the English servants were in change of the sheep when alive but when killed they were eaten by their French masters.


[Note: the similar significance informs such words as beef (ox) veal (calf), pork (swine) venison (deer)]




  1. NEWS– Middle English formed its plural newsby adding – (-es) to the singular new after Old French noveles (French nouvelles) or medieval Latin novus, the neuter plural of Latin novus ‘new’. It belongs to the class of plural forms such as means, pains, where the s of the plural has been fixed as if it belonged to the singular. So these nouns (news, means etc.) are usually followed by singular verbs.


  1. NOT– The long development which not has undergone is an interesting study. The earliest English negative adverb is newhich was placed before the verb, as in OE. ic ne secge(I do not say). But frequently he was strengthened by the addition of noht (from nawiht, nowiht, meaning ‘nothing’) after the verb: noht became not, and the typical ME. construction was I ne seye not (I do not say). But ne was pronounced with so little stress that it was apt to be dropped altogether, and in the fifteenth century the construction came to be I say not. This construction had survived for some centuries before the dummy auxiliary do was yoked to the service of making negative sentences. Now not is used immediately after dummy do, as in I do not say.




  1. ORANGE– The word is derived from Arabic naranjthrough Old French.


  1. OXEN–  Oxen is an interesting word from the philological point of view. One of the plural endingsin Old English was an. It was added to a very great number of nouns to form the plural from the very beginning. It showed great powers of expansion and at one time seemed as likely as (e)s become the universal plural ending. But finally (e)s carried the day, probably because it was the most distinctive ending and possibly under the Scandinavian influence. In the beginning of the modern period eyenshoon and hosen, housen, peasen still existed, but they soon died, and now ox only real plural in n surviving, for children as well as the biblical kine and brethren are too irregular to count as plurals made by the addition of n.” (Jespersen)




  1. PANDER–  There are a certain number of proper names in works of literature which have been so popular as to pass into ordinary language as appellatives. Thus Pander(Pandarus), a character of Chaucer’s “Troilus and Criseyde”, has passed into ordinary language as pander meaning ‘go-between in clandestine amours.


  1. PEA – It is an example of words that lose the s originally belonging to their stem, because it (s) is mistakenly apprehended as the sign of the plural. Latin pisumbecame in Old English pise, in Middle English pese(plural pesen). Butler (1633) has used peas as singular and peasen as plural, but he writes “the singular is most used for the plural: as…. a peck of peas, though the Londoners seem to make it a regular plural, calling peas a pea. In such compounds as peablossompeaseporridge and peasesoup the old form was preserved long after pea had become the recognised singular.


  1. PERFECT– The ME. forms of the word were parfit, and parfetwe were derived from the Old French parfit, parfet (modern parfait). Theo French parfit or parfet was derived from Latin perfectus. During and after the Renaissance many French words in English were remodelled into close resemblance with their Latin originals and the result was the introduction into the word (parfer) from the Latin. At first the introduction of c affected the spelling only, but in time, however, the spelling carried the pronunciation with it and we have the modern word (perfect).


  1. PERKS– The word is derived from perquisitesby the process of what is known as Shortening. It is a case of shortening in which the end of long foreign words is clipped and the beginning is retained. It is one of those shortened words which have never passed beyond slang.


  1. PET– The word is an example of what Dr. Murray has termed as backformations which owe their origin to one part of a word being mistaken for some derivative suffix (or rarely prefix) The tyof petty was mistaken to some derivative suffix and as such was subtracted to get the new word per meaning favourite. The editors of The Concise Oxford Dictionary are of the opinion that the origin of pet is unknown.


  1. PETTY– It is a French loan word and is from Old French petir. It was introduced in England by jurists in such combinations as petty jury, pettylarceny, petty constable, petty treason etc., at a time when legal procedure was conducted in England entirely in French, (i.e. before 1362). Though originally a legal term, it has got, for long, into the ordinary vocabulary of everyday life.


  1. PICK-POCKET– This word exemplifies a special type of compounds in English. This type of compounds made up of verbs and objects seems to have originated in Romanic languages (i.e. French, Italian, Spanish etc.) but has, in recent years, proved very fertile in English. Pick-pocketis made up of pick(vb) and pocket (object). (Other examples of this type of compounds are know-nothing, break-water, cut-purse, stop-gap etc.)
  2. PICTURE– The word is derived from Latin pictura. In Middle English peynturewas the normal form, and Chaucer has peynture, as in French (peinture). But after the Renaissance peynture was remodelled into closer resemblance with its Latin original (i.e. pictura) with the result that the c was introduced into the ME. word. So we have picture instead of peynture.


  1. PLOUGH–  It is one of those English words which have adopted the signification attached in Scandinavian to the corresponding word. Old English plohmeant “a measure of land.” This meaning still survives in Scotch pleuch. In Middle English it came to mean the implement plough as in Old Norse plógr.


  1. PREMISES– The word is derived from Old French premissewhich is from medieval Latin praemissa. Originally it meant things set forth or mentioned in the beginning. But the current popular use of premises in the Sense of a house with the outbuildings and the land belonging to it is a striking example of the development of a new meaning through misunderstanding” (H.Bradley).


  1. PUNY– It is one of those French juridical terms which have found their way into the ordinary vocabulary of everyday life. The French legal term puis néhas passed into the ordinary vocabulary as puny, though in its legal sense of ‘younger or inferior in rank’ it remains puisne in English.




  1. REFEREE– The word is formed by adding French ending-eeto refer which is from Old French referer or Latin re (ferrelatum “bring).


  1. RAISE– This word is imported from Scandinavia. This word and the native word rear existed side by side in the English language for a long time as the two slightly different forms for the same word. Both the forms her ultimately survived in standard language though they have developed slightly different meaning. Rear-raise.


  1. RICHES– It is one of those words the s of which, though belonging the stem of words, is taken by the popular instinct to be a plural ending. The ME. form of the word was richessewhich is from Old French (riche ‘rich‘ ess). Chaucer lays stress on the second syllable (richesse) as in French, and uses the plural richesses. But as subsequently the final e disappeared and as the word occurred very often in such a way that the context did not show its number, riches came to be conceived as a plural, as in “riches are a source of unhappiness”. The singular use, as in the riches of the ship is come on shore (Shakespeare’s Othello, II, 1,83) has now become wholly obsolete.




  1. SANDWICH– Sandwich illustrates the philological phenomenon that names of persons are a fruitful source of new words in English. The noun sandwich is derived from the name of the first Earl of Sandwich who is said to have eaten slices of bread and meat while gaming for twenty four hours. It means “two or more slices of bread with meat cheese etc, between”. It is also used as a verb in the sense put somebody/something between two other people or things, especially in a restricted space.” So it is a case of conversion, that is, the transfer of a word from one grammatical category to another (from noun to verb and vice versa).


  1. SAUNTER–  It is from French s’auntrer, another form for s’aventurer: ‘to adventure oneself. According to Jespersen, “There is a curious parallel to the Norse baskand busk in saunter, where the French reflective pronoun has become fixed as an inseparable element of the ward.”


  1. SCIENTIST– Scientisthas often been branded as an ‘ignoble Americanism’ or ‘a cheap and vulgar product of trans-Atlantic slang’, but Fitzedward Hall has pointed out that it was fabricated and advocated in 1840, together with physicist by Dr. Whewell. Whoever objects to such words as scientist. Jespersen says, on the plea that they are not correct Latin formations, would have to blot out of his vocabulary such well established words as suicide, telegram, botany, sociology etc.


  1. SEAT– It is a Scandinavian loan-word. It comes from the Scandinavian saete. It was adopted because it was at once associated with the verbs to sit and to set. Though it was taken over as a noun we have now the new verb to seat(to place on a seat).


  1. SHIRT– OE. scyrtehas now become shirt. It is wrong to suppose that the word comes from Old Norse skyrta‘shirt’ which has given birth to the word skirt, OE scurte as well as Old Norse skyrta is from Germanic skurtjon, and so the modern words shirt and skirt are doublets.


  1. SILLY– The word illustrates the well-known semantic fact that the ironical use of a word generally leads to its degeneration of meaning. Silly is from OE. saelig. It once meant ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ like its equivalent German selig. “In Middle English it was often used satirically in a tone of mock envy or admiration, and hence acquired the disparaging sense which it now has” (H. Bradley). According to G.L. Brook the stages in its sense development have been ‘innocent’, then ‘harmless’, then ‘weakly foolish’.


  1. SISTER– The word is from Old Norse swuster, and not from OE sweoster. For a longtime the OE.word and the old Norse word were in use in England side by side as the two slightly different forms for the same word. Ultimately, however, the native form (i.e. sweaster) went out of use, and the Norse word (i.e. swuster) continued in use as the only form. So in sister we have now a Scandinavian loan-word.


  1. SLOGAN– It is one of the specimens of the Celtic contingent in English. It has got into the English language through Scotch Gaelic. Originally meant “highland war-cry”. But now the word has undergone generalization of meaning, and has come to mean also “party cry” watchword’ motto, so catchy phase used in advertizing.’


  1. SPINSTER-It is the feminine gender of bachelor. But curiously enough bachelor is French, while spinster (also maid) is English.


  1. SPORT– It is an instance of word-making by the process of shortening i.e. popular clipping of foreign words. The French word disport has been shortened into sport.


  1. SCAPEGOAT– Tyndale, one of the Bible translators of the sixteenth century coined this word while he was translating a Hebrew term which he had not fully understood. Though the word originated in a misinterpretation of a Hebrew term, the word is, as Dr. H. Bradley says, “a singularly felicitous expression of the intended meaning, and in figurative use has proved a valuable addition to the language.”




  1. TRANSPIRE– The word is from medieval Latin trans(spirare ‘breathe’) or from French transpirer. Etymologically, the word means “breathe through and a circumstance may be correctly said to have transpired in the sense of having become known in spite of efforts to keep it secret. But the use of the word in the sense of ‘happen’ (as in the events which transpire now-a-days are unprecedented in history’), so frequent in the newspapers is objectionable. This current sense of the word is not due to any deviation from Latin usage, but due to a vulgar misunderstanding of the word.


  1. THEM– The word was imported from Scandinavia. The OE, dative was hem which still survives in the form ’em (as in “take ’em”) which is now taken to be a shortened them by people ignorant of the history of the language. The Scandinavian them and the OE. hem were in use side by side for a long time; but them was felt to be more distinct than the native form which it supplanted.


  1. THENCE– The OE. form of the word was thanonand the Scandinavian form was thethen. Both these forms existed in English side by side for a long time, and it is generally supposed that the Scandinavian form was discarded ultimately in favour of the native form (thanon) to which an adverbials was added. But Jespersen is of the opinion that thence may just as well be due to the Scandinavian one, th being lost as in since.


  1. THEY– The word was taken from Scandinavia. The  OE. form of the pronoun was tho, and the corresponding Scandinavian pronoun was they Both the English and the Scandinavian forms were in use side by side for a long time, but ultimately the English pronoun tho) dropped from use, and the Scandinavian they continued in use, because they agreed well with other pronouns, and was felt to be more distinct than the native form which it supplanted.


  1. THURSDAY– The English owe this word to the Scandinavians. The corresponding OE. word was thunresdoei. The OE. word as well as the Scandinavian one continued in use side by side for a long time, but ultimately the Scandinavian word Thursdaycame to supplant the native word Thursday was originally a day of Thor, the God of Thunder.


  1. TIDINGS– The CE. form of the word was tidung. The English often modified the Scandinavian words they adopted. Old Norse nithindi, though unchanged in Orrms’ titheundewas generally changed into tiding (s).


  1. TOWN– It is a native Germanic word. Old English tun meant “en closure, yard”, “enclosed land round a dwelling”. But after the influence of the Celts had disappeared, the word acquired its modern meaning of village or town. “The word points to the stockaded settlements of a time long before the Angles and Saxons saw Britain.” (Greenough and Kittredge.)


  1. TRUSTEESHIP– The word is a grand example of hybridismof words formed from elements derived from two or more different languages. It is made up of parts derived from three different languages—Scandinavian, French and English. It contains Scandinavian trust, a French suffix-ee and English suffix -ship: (trust+ee + ship)=trusteeship. Jespersen says: “Such a word as trusteeship is eminently characteristic of the composite character of the language.” And English is perhaps the most composite of all languages.


  1. TYPEWRITE– It is an example of back-formations. The -erhas been subtracted from typewriter to get the verb to typewrite, because the-er though an integral part of the word typewriter was mistaken for the derivative suffix. It is not wise to take the word as a compound with the verb (write) as the second, and the object (type)as the first part because it is not usual in Germanic languages to form compounds with a verb as the second and an object or a predicative as the first part” (Jespersen).




  1. VERDICT– The ME. form of the word was verdit which was derived from the Old French voirdit(veir ‘true’ + dit past participle of dire’ say) After the Renaissance verdict was remodelled after its Latin counterpart veredictum with the result that the c of the Latin word was introduced into verdict. So ME verdit has now become verdict. To remodel the French words into closer resemblance with their Latin originals was a lingustic fashion in England during and after the Revival of Learning.


  1. VILLAIN– The word is a grand example of degeneration of meaningor pejorative sense-development. It is derived from the Latin villa ‘farmhouse through villanus which means ‘a slave attached to one’s counrty-place’. Originally it meant ‘a farm labourer’ replacing the English word chur/ which originally meant “peasant, boor’. Soon, however, it became a term of contempt for one who did not belong to the gentry. Gradually there clustered round villain a set of ideas associating with it all the qualities opposed to the comprehensive word courtesy. Thus villain was applied to a ‘low fellow’ in general and villainy was used for low conduct. From this to the present meaning is a short step: the implied moral reprobation has simply been intensified” (Greenough and Kittredge). Villain has now lost its association with any particular rank of life with the result that a peasant as well as a prince may be called a villain if he is morally wicked.


  1. VICTUALS-The Middle English form of the word was vittleswhich is from French vitailles. After the Renaissance vittles was remodelled after its Latin original victualis (pl. victualia) with the result that the c of the Latin word was introduced into vittles. So ME vittles has now become victuals. To remodel the French words borrowed in the Middle English period into close resemblance with their Latin originals was a linguistic fashion in England after the Revival of learning.


  1. VIXEN– It is supposed to have been borrowed from the Southern dialect of England and is one of the three Teutonic words with initial vwhich Modern English contains (these three words being vane, vat, vixen). The OE.com of the word was fyxen which became vixen by the shifting off into vin Southern English an original f generally shifted into v).




  1. WAR– The Middle English form of the word was werrewhich is from Old North French werre (Central French guerre). This word is a linguistic evidence that after the Norman Conquest the French were the powerful class that took into their hands the management of military affairs. Though it was introduced purely as a military word, it is now extensively used outside the military affairs.


  1. WEIRD– The OE. form of the word was wyrdwhich meant fate, and wyrd is from warth meaning to become to take place’. Originally it was a noun meaning ‘destiny, fate’; the three weird sisters means the fate sisters or Norns. Shakespeare found this expression in Holinshed and has used it in speaking of the witches in Macbeth. From Macbeth it entered into the ordinary language, but without being properly understood. It is now generally used as an adjective and means ‘supernatural, uncanny unearthly.’


  1. WINE– It is one of the pre-Christian Latin loan-wordswhich the Angles and Saxons had acquired from the Romans before they went to Britain. The OE. form of the word was win, and is from Latin vinum.


  1. WOMAN– Womanis pregnant with great philological significance. In woman are concentrated a number of important linguistic, phonetic and grammatical developments. In the first place, woman is an example of what is known as the obscuration of compounds, that is, the loss of identity of the separate parts of compounds as a result of the loss of stress. OE. compound wifmann has now become woman through phonetic change. Secondly, though the OE. short u sound to be heard in such modern words as full, pull, bull has regularly become the sound of modern but there are a few modern words which preserve the old u sound and woman is one of these words. Though the examples of complete assimilation (i.e. changes in consonants, by assimilation to one another) are not numerous, woman is one of these few words – woman (also women) <wifman through wimmen illustrates the assimilation of f to m. But the greatest philological charm of woman lies in the fact that in the days of grammatical gender-system (that is, in Old English) woman (OE. wif-mann) was masculine.


The plural of woman (e.g, women) is one of those irregular plurals in English, which were formed in Old English by mutation, and which have not gone out of use even after -es has become the universal plural ending.




  1. YANKEE– The term was originally applied to the inhabitants of the Dutch colonies in North America. Now Jan Keesis a nickname which is still applied in Flanders to people from Holland proper. Jan is the common Dutch name which corresponds to English John, and Kees may be either the usual of the Christian name Cornelis or a dialectical variation of kaas or a combination of both. “Jankees, in English became Yankees, where the s was taken as the plural ending and eventually disappeared, and Yankee became the designation of any inhabitant of New England and even sometimes of the whole of the United States.” (Jespersen).


  1. YOU— The old declension of ye(nominative) and you (accusative and dative) has given way to the modern use of you in all cases.




  1. ZERO– cipher, O, XVII c.; temperature denoted by this symbol, XVIII c.; nought, nothing, XIXI c. It is ‘zero’ in Fr., ‘zero’ in It. (the source of Fr.), O.Sp. ‘zero’ (mod. ‘cero’) and Arab. ‘cifr’ (cpher).


  1. ZIGZAG– having the form of twisted or crooked XVIII c. Earliest forms being ‘Ziczac’, Zig-zac’: Fr. ‘Zigzag’; G. ‘Zickzack,’ of symbolic formation of direction, applied first to fortifications’. Hence ‘Zigzag’ vb. (Burns), ‘Zigzagged’ (Goldsmith), “Zigzag-gery’ (Sterne).

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