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Have you Heard about the Word?

By Edited Oct 21, 2015 1 2

Did you know?

Across the British Isles, the belief in the wee folk, pixies and fairies was wide-spread at one time. Although not common today, one Irish woman, when asked if she believed in fairies, gave "no" as a resounding answer, before adding "but they are there anyway".

The name fairy is believed, to derive from the Latin word fata, meaning Fates. Other supernatural beings like trolls, dwarfs and goblins come from Teutonic (Germanic) languages and seeped into English usage. Underground miners in Britain, often blamed the dwarfs and their gang, for mining mishaps, while the Irish would routinely accuse the fairies when anything at all went missing. People absolutely believed in the existence and reality of the wee folk, who came from the land of the "fey".

Fairies and Devils


The word Devil comes from the Greek word diabolos, which is also the root of the word diabolical. Satan is of Hebrew origin and basically means, enemy. In Latin, Lucifer, literally meant "light bringer" and was the name for the "morning star", that we now call Venus.




Diabolical diabolos

Do you ever have a bonfire for fun, or to burn your autumn leaves? Ever wondered where the word came from? Bonfire, as it happens, comes from bone-fire, which usually involved some lonesome old women with a cat, or perhaps a nose wart, being burnt as a witch, or the dead bodies of plague victims.

When I was young, my grandmother used to say, "stop making all that ballyhoo". I always rather liked the word, but didn't realise that it was derived from the Irish village of Ballyhooly. Ballyhooley in Gaelic, (Baile Atha Hulla) means "Ford Of The Apples", but that's got nothing to do with anything. My grandma also, would often accuse my brother and I, of taking her butter scotch lollys, from the tin beside her bed and label us "hooligans" (we were innocent, it was our cousin Geoffrey). The name hooligan however, came from the rather troublesome Houlihan family of London, who cunningly changed their name to Hooligan, and became famous. 

Love and Life

Wedding day(96790)
The word engage, comes from the Old French word gage and means "pledge", while in Norman French, the same word lost the "g" and gained a "w" and became wage. The Anglo-Saxons however, used the word wedd, which we still use as wed

From the Latin verb maritare, we get words like marry and marriage. The Romans, who also used marriage veils called nubes and conducted weddings called nuptiae. This provided the origin of the words nubile and nuptials. The word erotic (which sounds so nice on the tongue, that I might say it again) comes directly from the Greek god Eros, who would shoot his arrow of love.

The word die, originated from the Old Norse word deja, while the Anglo-Saxons used the word morthor for violent death. Today we say murder. Homicide, a word we mean to describe killing another person, is derived from the latin homicidium, literally homo, man and caedere, to kill. A dead person maybe put in a coffin, a word which comes from the Greek word kophinos. A coffin may then be placed in a mausoleum, which was named after the tomb of Mausolus, the King of Caria, whose tomb was destroyed by a huge earth quake in the 4th century BCE.

Words are more interesting than they first appear, as Ernest Hemingway expressed, when he said: " All my life I've looked at words as though I were seeing them for the first time. "

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May 1, 2012 12:47am
Ahhhh, yer killin' me!! This is GREAT, and now I guess I have to ask you to marry me!! (Etymology do be fascinatin', don't it?). A thumb.
May 1, 2012 1:06am
Thanks again. Yes the origin of words and how they change over time is intriguing. I also enjoy how with the English language we acquire words from say Greek, then totally warp them from the original pronunciation.Like paediatrician, which is literally 'child doctor' in Greek. It gives you a whole different slant on a word.
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  1. James Mc Donald Wordly Wise. Great Britain: St Edmundsbury Press, 1984.

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