Significant Etymology: or Roots, Stems, and Branches of the English Languageby James Mitchell
This book is simply what it professes to be, a collection and explanation of the significant etymologies of the English language. It is not written for philologists, but for intelligent and thoughtful men and women who are interested in the study of their own language, and of the sources from which it is derived. I have
An excerpt from the Author's PREFACE:
This book is simply what it professes to be, a collection and explanation of the significant etymologies of the English language. It is not written for philologists, but for intelligent and thoughtful men and women who are interested in the study of their own language, and of the sources from which it is derived. I have called it "Significant" Etymology, because only those roots are given which throw light upon the signification of the words derived from them. To quote a word from German, for example, of the same sound and of the same meaning as our own, is not significant etymology, but insignificant and useless, unless for comparative philology; and besides, it is just as likely that the German word has been taken from the English as the English from the German. In every case, however, where the original word helps us to understand the meaning of an English word better, or shows us how it has come to bear its present meaning, I have endeavoured to trace the etymology clearly step by step through the written records of even past centuries, until its origin has been found in the fixed form of a parent language.
I do not claim originality for the etymologies I have given, otherwise they would be of very little value, but I have traced them with care through all the changes of letters, sounds, and meanings which they have undergone down to the present day. The Dictionaries and other books in many languages to which I have been indebted are far too numerous to be mentioned here or referred to in the notes, for there are very few books bearing on the subject which I have not consulted, and to which I am not more or less indebted; while in many cases I have used the very definitions which their authors have given of the words in question. Special acknowledgment is due to Dr. Smythe-Palmer, to whose valuable manual, 'The Folk and their Word-Lore' (Routledge, 1904), I owe the explanation of many of the words noted in this book.
While I cannot claim credit for the originality of the assigned etymologies, I do claim credit for the originality of the method in which the words are arranged-viz., in groups, according to the different subjects of which they treat, or from which they are taken. In all the etymological books in our language, words are classified and arranged either according to the languages from which they are derived, according to the laws under which the changes have taken place, or according as they have narrowed or broadened in meaning, or improved or deteriorated in sense; but this is the first time, so far as I know, and most certainly in English, where, without overlooking altogether these methods of classification, they have been arranged in an orderly manner, beginning with words connected with the universe at large; then the heavenly bodies; the earth, its two great domains of land and water; the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms; man, his bodily structure, including food, clothing, and habitation, his mental powers, his moral faculties, and his spiritual nature. From tests applied, it has been found that in grouping words in this way a special interest is not merely awakened hut maintained in their study; and that in thus dealing with a whole group of words at one time, a naturally dry subject is invested with a fresh charm and a deeper meaning.
As I have endeavoured to stick to my text throughout, and have given the etymologies of the words which were connected with the special subject of each chapter, I have in the notes at the foot of the different pages given the most important English words, whatever their subject, derived from the root words quoted in the text. These words referring to so many different subjects, being in the notes, do not interfere with the thread of the chapter, and wherever necessary their signification is explained, for the purpose of showing how their meaning came to be derived from that of the root word
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