LESSON 2 - Words: Etymology

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will recognize that the English language is derived from other languages and that the meanings of word often change over time.
  • Students will research and analyze different words to identify origin and compare meanings.
  • Students will apply the concept of intellectual property and plagiarism in all media by appropriately citing and documenting research sources.
English can be a very complex language in part because it uses words from many other cultures, which were adopted into English very long ago. The history of the English language has a lot to do with the languages of invaders and conquerors since very early times, like the Romans invading England in BC times, or the Anglo-Saxons invading in the 4th century AD, or the Viking raids in the 9th century AD, or the Norman invasion of 1066 AD. This history of invasion helps to explain why English can have words with roots in Latin, German, Norse, and French--and that's only a few examples! The English language has also been exposed to other languages through trade, religion, or technology at many points in its history. With so many contributing languages, this means English speakers usually have several different ways to say almost the same thing: like saying that you feel "happy" (coming from the Old Norse word happ meaning "lucky") or "joyful" (from the Old French joie meaning "feeling of pleasure") or "fortunate" (from the Latin word fortunata meaning "chance or luck"). These three words convey the same general meaning, but come from three different originating sources.

The historical sources I gave for those three words above is part of the etymology for those words. Etymology is the study of the origins of a word. Understanding where a word came from, and what the word meant in its original language, can sometimes help you make sense of what the word means now. Most standard dictionaries will try to give an idea of where the word came from as part of the definition, but there are special "etymological dictionaries" that trace the history of a word in more detail, trying to find all its possible origins.

In this lesson we're going to use etymology to try to help us understand the meanings of words. Be sure to read all of the information below before you get started.

This will require use of the internet, and may require use of a search engine, such as Google, Yahoo, Lycos, etc. You will need to find etymological resources online, and do a word analysis on 5 words from a list of words given below. You will need to give four sections of information on each word:

Here's the format with a little more explanation to help you:

Detailed Example

Here's what this looks like with a specific example.

Some sites will disagree about the etymology of words, and this is okay. You are not being asked to know which is right or wrong. Choose the answer that you think is most likely to be true, or the answer you think is most interesting.

Grading for this Lesson:

To get a 10: In the first submission, assignment questions are completed, facts are correct, responses are thoughtful, presentation is clear, grammar and spelling are correct.
To get a 9: In the first submission, a few assignment questions are incomplete OR a few facts are incorrect OR a few responses are careless OR there are a few grammar and spelling errors. After prompting, all corrections are made in revisions.
To get an 8: In the first submission, many assignment questions are incomplete OR many facts are incorrect OR many responses are careless OR there are numerous grammar and spelling errors. After prompting, all corrections are made in revisions.
To get a 7: After prompting, a few assignment questions remain incomplete OR a few facts remain incorrect OR a few responses remain careless OR a few grammar and spelling errors remain.
To get a 6: This grade is reserved for administrative use.
To get a 5: Plagiarism, purposeful or mistaken, which will lower your final grade for the course (so be very careful when posting your work!) OR lack of effort, disrespect, or attitude (we are here to communicate with you if you don't understand something). Lesson requirements have been met.
Also be aware that you will have a chance to revise your work. Since revisions result in a lower grade, remember to read the directions carefully and make sure you meet the requirements.

Assignment for Lesson 2

Here are 15 words. You need to do a word analysis on 5 of them, based on the directions and example given above.
Do not submit text that you have copied from sources, including websites. All of your work should be in your own words. Using copied text would be considered plagiarism. For more information, review our page on Plagiarism and Citation

alleviate brood conjure facade hero
lazy kindergarten mooch ovation postern
querulous savor scald traverse yawn

You can use any etymological site you can find for these problems, but here are a few good links to help get you started. Remember, if a source doesn't give you all the information you need (for example, it lists the original word, but doesn't tell you what the original word meant), then you'll have to find another source.

Links will open in a new window:

These are only a few sites; remember you can search the web to find more if you need them. Good search terms include "etymology" and "word origins." Also remember dictionaries often offer etymologies too, as part of the definition.

Look for keys to the abbreviations used on these sites. Often language names in etymological entries will be abbreviated, putting O.Fr. for "Old French" for example. Each site will have a key (a section listing the abbreviations and their meanings) somewhere on their website to explain the abbreviations. Find the key if you need it--if you misinterpret an abbreviation your answer will be considered incorrect and require revision.

Return to the English 3 Demo Page
Return to Student Desk Demo

The materials in this lesson are � Compuhigh and may not be reused without express written permission.