[NB. Throughout this essay the editors intended to reproduce the actual etymologies as illustration. Unfortunately, the etymologies for this proposed dictionary no longer exist, so it has not been possible to include them. The references to entries are retained for the convenience of the reader to compare with other dictionaries.]


Every word we use has a history of its own. Our language did  not suddenly spring into existence, but is the result of a long historical development, in which many different factors have played a part. Language is not a static thing, but may be likened to a growing organism. It is continually developing and undergoing changes in sound as well as in form and meaning. Individual words come into existence, evolve, and sometimes become obsolete or even disappear. New words are coined, and colloquial and slang words and phrases enrich the language, and not infrequently become accepted in good usage. As Emerson has said, "Language is a city to the building of which every human being has brought a stone."

English is a language that combines within itself more varied strains than any other language known. The words of our language have grown through centuries of wars and conquests, through discovery and adventure, through social, political, economic and cultural upheavals. Some of our words are so new that they were unknown a year ago; some are so old that our prehistoric ancestors must have spoken them before they learned the art of writing.

In this dictionary a brief history, or etymology, of each word is given. To acquaint oneself with this history is a stimulating and instructive experience, and the reader will find it truly rewarding, each time he looks up a word, to read the etymology.

Take for example a word like halibut. Reading the etymology will show that this fish is so called because it was known as the "holy" fish, and was eaten on "holy" days -- fast days -- when it was forbidden to eat meat. Hali is the Middle English spelling of holy, and butte is an old word for a flounder. Ever after, the reader will have a sense of pleasure in recognizing the common halibut as a "holy flounder."

Another interesting word is gossip. Who would know, without reading the etymology, that the first part of this word is God? The second part is the Anglo-Saxon word sibb, meaning related, which we have in our words sib and sibling; so a gossip was originally a "god-relative." The kind of small talk heard when godparents got together came to be known as gossip.

The etymology of a word can be more than interesting. It is useful in increasing oneÕs knowledge and command of the English language, in the following ways:

1. Expansion of Vocabulary. Having learned that the carn- in words such as carnal, carnage and carnival means "meat," the reader will find it easier to remember that a carnivorous animal is a man-eating animal. Then he may read of a voracious creature; but that should not puzzle him if he recalls that the vor- in carnivorous meant "eat." Hence the word voracious will suggest to him a creature with an insatiable appetite.

2. Improvement of Spelling. The student not familiar with the history of words can acquire facility in spelling only by assimilating a vast store of disconnected facts, which must be learned by practice and repetition, as there are often no reliable rules to guide him, nor any consistent pattern to follow. A knowledge of the history of words will enable him to recognize order behind the apparent chaos, and greatly facilitate his task. For example, the word consensus is frequently misspelled "concensus." If the student notes that consensus is formed from the Latin prefix con-, together and sensus, feeling or opinion (seen in our word sense), he will more easily remember how to spell it. He will no longer confuse it with such words as census, censor, and censure, which come from the Latin word censere, to appraise or declare, and hence have nothing to do with the sensus in consensus.

3. Reading Ability and Comprehension. The reader will understand and remember the meanings of difficult words more easily once he has read their histories and learned the simple words from which they are formed. For example, the second part of such words as infuse, suffuse, confuse, profuse and diffuse represents a Latin verb meaning "pour." We may call this a family of words, as they all have a common element. All of them mean "pour," with various additional meanings that are supplied by the use of different prefixes. Now when one meets a new member of the family, as perfuse, he will at once have some idea of what the word means, since he will know already0 that the first part, found in many other English words, is the prefix per-, meaning through or throughout; hence perfuse means "pour throughout," or saturate.

Thus by learning the stories behind the words the reader adds to his stock of useful words not just one, but two or three or even more at a time. He becomes a more efficient reader and enhances his conversational skill. These abilities are of great value in helping the student to excel and the businessman to prosper.

Finally, etymologies will be of use in the future. As new words are formed and old ones change, their history and origin may become obscured, just as the original meanings of many of our present words have been lost. It will be valuable for our descendants to trace the origins of their words back to our own times, as we today may pursue the development of our words to former periods of history.

Most dictionary-users have a normal desire to use words correctly, and a healthy curiosity about the structure and uses of words, but they are deterred from reading the etymology -- that is, the history -- of a word when they look it up. There have been several reasons for this:

1. For one thing, they may feel that etymologies cite too many words from "dead" languages that are of no value today. A language such as Latin cannot, however, fairly be called "dead" when it lives on in thousands of words that are used throughout the world today. Furthermore, Latin still survives in its direct descendants -- the Romance languages -- spoken in large areas of Europe and America. By learning the elements that make up English words one can in fact get a good start toward learning other modern languages -- French, Italian, Spanish, German -- in which words spring from the same sources as our own.

2. For another thing, the reader may be discouraged by all the unfamiliar symbols and abbreviations that are often used in other dictionaries. We have succeeded, we believe, in removing much of the awe from etymologies, by reducing the symbols and abbreviations to a minimum, so that the etymology of a word may be read just as easily as its definition.

3. Finally, the word etymology itself may be dismaying to some. Etymology, as we use it, simply means the history of a word. The ancient Greeks called it etymologia -- from etymon, "true senses" and the suffix -logia, meaning study or knowledge. Thus the word is easily understood, once the reader sees the simple elements from which it is formed.




The first inhabitants of the British Isles of whom we have any definite knowledge were Celtic peoples who began to migrate across the English Channel from the continent about 1000 B.C. The Celts probably had their original home somewhere in central Europe, and from there traveled westward, in search of food and better living conditions, into the region known anciently as Gaul. Most of the Celts who remained on the continent spoke a language which we call Gallic, also called Gaulish by others. Many Gallic words found their way into Latin, and later also appear in Old French and Provenal, from which subsequently many of them have come into English. Breton, a language of the Celtic group closely related to Welsh and Cornish, is still spoken  today in the French provinces of Brittany. As to the Celts who migrated to the British Isles, their language has survived best in native Scottish (also called Erse, or Scottish Gaelic), Welsh and Irish, all of which have furnished many words to English.

In 55 B.C. Julius Caesar and his Roman legions invaded the island of Britain. Though Caesar himself was not immediately successful, the Romans later conquered the southern part of the island and ruled it for more than 400 years. The Scottish people living in the northern part of the island (which is today called Scotland) did not come under Roman domination, and their language was little affected. The Celtic speech of the southern people, or Britons, on the other hand, was to some extent influenced by the Latin of their conquerors. To give just one example: the -chester in Manchester, Dorchester, the -caster in Lancaster, and the -cester in Leicester, and other similar place names in England, all go back to the Latin castra, camp. Apparently these towns grew up on the site of old Roman army camps.  Since Britain was but an outpost of the Empire, the effects of the Roman rule were not far-reaching.

Between about 450 and 600 A.D. the Germanic tribes known as Angles, Saxons and Jutes invaded southern Britain and settled there. The Saxons came from what is today northwest Germany, the Angles from the province of Schleswig-Holstein, and the Jutes from the Jutland peninsula of Denmark. The Angles gave their name to the country and the language, but in fact the Saxons were most numerous, and within a few hundred years all the descendants of these invaders came to be called Saxons.

The earliest "English" language we know is Anglo-Saxon, also called Old English. (For greater clarity and convenience we have departed from prevailing scholarly usage in preferring the term Anglo-Saxon to Old English. We have felt that Anglo-Saxon is more distinctive and more expressive, and that our readers will more readily connect the term with what they know of history. Also we feared that they might confuse Old English with Middle English or early modern English.) The earliest records date from about 900 A.D. That was the time when King Alfred the Great had much of the important literature of the time translated from Latin (the only learned language of the day) into the native Anglo-Saxon tongue. The great Beowulf epic also dates from this period. About this same time the Danes began to invade  England, and though they were not successful in conquering the island, many of them settled there, introducing Scandinavian influences into the language. The seafaring people of Norway and Iceland also influenced the language of this period, especially in the north.

The next great influence on the English language began in 1066, when England was successfully invaded by William Duke of Normandy, later called William the Conqueror, who became king and established a court there. The nobles who accompanied him from France became the ruling class, and French soldiers were stationed everywhere in England. Their language, Old French, or more specifically, Old Norman French, became the court language, and remained as such for more than two hundred years. Although the French language did not succeed in supplanting English as the language of the people, its effects were wide and deep. The French influence is, more than any other single factor, responsible for the development of English, into the rich and flexible medium of thought and expression that it is today. The French language of the conquerors was further enriched by new words formed during the period that it flourished on English soil, giving rise to a variety known as Anglo-French. Many new terms came into use in feudal administration and law, and also in heraldry.

Gradually the English language came into its own, retaining intact the Germanic base of the earlier Anglo-Saxon, and adding to it the rich heritage from the French. From these two main streams there emerged Middle English, the precursor of modern English, the language of Chaucer and of the early Bible translations of Wycliffe and Tyndale.

The period of Middle English extends up to about 1500 A.D., when, with the French domination long ended, a true English language was being spoken, even in the kingÕs court. Our greatest writer, Shakespeare, as well as Ben Jonson, Bacon, Marlowe, and others wrote in this new language, and their works, together with the King James Bible of 1611, set the standard for modern English. The intellectuals continued to write in Latin and Greek, and they introduced thousands of new words taken from these classical tongues, which further enriched and refined the language. By the end of the 17th century we had a composite English language, not much different from the language we use today.




Our English language includes more words than any other language in the history of the world. The English-speaking peoples have always been quick to adopt any useful word, from whatever language. Furthermore, speakers of English have gone farthest in assimilating these borrowed words into the pattern of their own language. Thus there are a great many words in English which, though not native, nevertheless appear perfectly normal. In a language such as German, borrowed words are more often recognizable as such, and they still bear the earmarks of their foreign origin.

English is basically a Germanic language, being historically most closely related to the languages of the group which we call Germanic, including High and Low German, Dutch, Flemish, Frisian, the Scandinavian languages, Gothic, and some others. English resembles these languages most closely in the sounds of which it makes use, and the patterns in which these sounds are organized (phonology); in its grammatical structure (syntax); in the ways in which it shows a change of meaning by a change in the form of a word (morphology); and in the way in which it forms new words from words already existing in the language (formation of compounds). Also, the most basic and most commonly used words of English are related to words found in the other Germanic languages -- everyday words such as run, walk, eat, live, love, swim, die, etc.

English, however, more than any of its sister languages of the Germanic group, shows a great many foreign influences, owing to its varied and colorful history. For example, English has words such as calf, cow, and sheep, which are also found in related forms in other Germanic languages. In these languages the native words are used to denote the flesh of the animal as well as the animal itself. In English, however, the native Germanic words are used only as the names of the animals, and borrowed words, mostly French, are used to denote the flesh of those animals. Thus we have calf and veal,cow and beef, sheep and mutton. We also use a French word -- venison -- for the flesh of the deer, though deer is a native Germanic word for the animal, and in fact in Anglo-Saxon and in other German languages is the word for the animal. English furthermore has many pairs of practically synonymous words, one of which is native and the other borrowed, as begin and commence, thoughtful and pensive, speed and velocity, etc.

As we have said, English belongs to the family of Germanic languages. This group in turn is part of a still larger family which we call Indo-European. As the name implies, the Indo-European languages are all descended from the language of a prehistoric tribe which thousands of years ago lived, it is believed, somewhere in central Europe and, beginning about 3000-2500 B.C., spread by migration over practically all of Europe, and penetrated in Asia as far east as northern India.

Among the oldest known languages of the Indo-European family is Sanskrit, the language of the sacred writings of the Hindus. Toward the close of the 18th century, some European scholars became interested in the study of Sanskrit, and they noted certain startling resemblances to their own  languages. At first it was believed, since Sanskrit was so ancient, that it was the mother language, from which the languages of Europe and parts of Asia were descended. However, in the 19th century, with the discovery of still earlier related languages, such as Hittite, and more recently, Tocharian and Minoan, it was recognized that Sanskrit was but a sister language in a larger family. The resemblances observed in these languages could be accounted for only by assuming that they were all derived from an original common tongue, to which the name Indo-European was given.

The prehistoric speakers of the language which we call Indo-European left no written records that have come down to us, and in fact we doubt they knew the art of writing. Therefore we have no direct evidence to show us what their language was like. However, just as the chemist, by applying analytical methods, is able to determine the chemical elements of which a given substance is composed, and the archaeologist can similarly reconstruct the skeleton of a prehistoric animal from its fossil remains, so the student of language, by using comparative and analytical techniques, can reconstruct the original language from which our own language and many others are descended. By such methods we are able to assume certain basic forms which we call roots. A root is not itself a word, but represents the simple element at the base of words found, in more or less developed forms, throughout the languages of the Indo-European family. In the etymologies of this dictionary, these roots are marked with an asterisk and a hyphen, thus: *ak-, sharp. This root expresses the basic notion of sharpness or something sharp, and underlies many words which we use today, all of which mean "sharp" in some sense: ax, a sharp instrument; acid, something that tastes sharp; acute, describing mental sharpness; acacia, a thorny plant. Some roots apparently have their origin in spontaneous expressions, such as the root *bhu-, denoting the general notion of "swelling," and formed in imitation of the sound heard in puffing the cheeks. This root is represented in many English words, all containing an underlying idea of "swelling," and a few of which are: boil [meaning "inflammation"], bosom, bud [meaning "protuberance"], bug [meaning "insect"], pocket, poke [meaning "swelling"], pot, pout [a type of fish], puddle, puff.




The vocabulary of modern English is derived largely from two main sources: 1) native Germanic words, found in Anglo-Saxon and also in the Scandinavian languages brought in from Norway, Denmark and Iceland. The basic structure of English is still Germanic, and the native Germanic words are among those that are most commonly used in everyday speech and writing. 2) French words, most of them introduced by the Norman conquerors, but many also borrowed later from modern French, owing to the close political and cultural ties existing between England and France in modern times, and the continued influence of the earlier borrowings, which made further additions that much easier.

Inasmuch as French, Spanish, Italian and the other Romance languages directly continue the Latin heritage, Latin is an important basic source of English words. Also, many words, most of them scientific, literary, or ecclesiastical terms, have been borrowed directly from Latin in recent times.

Greek is of great importance for English, in two respects: it is on the one hand the source of many Latin words, whether these have come into English directly or have passed through French or other Romance languages; on the other hand, it is a fertile source of many words of recent formation, largely scientific and technical terms.

The English vocabulary was further greatly enriched during the period of the Renaissance, mostly by maritime and commercial terms borrowed from the Dutch (for example, yacht, drogher, knapsack),  and artistic, musical, architectural and literary terms borrowed from Italian (for example, chiaroscuro, fugue, pedestal, canto); some of these passed through French or Spanish before coming into English.

The Semitic languages, chiefly Arabic and Hebrew, have contributed many words. Islam had a flourishing civilization at the time that Europe was still in the Dark Ages. Much of our modern learning is derived from the Arabs, and they also were instrumental in preserving and transmitting the knowledge of the ancients. The Arab influence is evident in many words relating to the natural sciences, mathematics, astronomy, navigation and commerce (for example, alchemy, algebra, zenith, admiral, average). Most of these terms have come into English through the Romance-speaking peoples of the Mediterranean region, especially the Spaniards. Hebrew, as the language of the Old Testament and the vehicle of the Judaic tradition in the Western world, has contributed a large number of words of religious significance (for example, Messiah, Jehovah, cabal, cherub, seraph, etc.).

English has adopted many words from the Celtic languages, chiefly Irish, Scottish Gaelic, and Welsh (for example, whiskey, banshee, leprechaun, druid, etc.). The English language in America has been further enriched by many words borrowed from the original inhabitants, the American Indians (for example, wampum, tomahawk, moccasin, woodchuck, chipmunk, opossum, bayou, etc.). Also, many words have been added, either directly or through French or Spanish or Portuguese, from the languages of the Indians of Mexico, Central and South America, and the West Indies (for example, cacao, maize, chile, ocelot, canoe, barbecue, mahogany, etc.). The British on their part have added many words from Hindustani and other East Indian languages (for example, chutney, curry [meaning "pungent dish"], bungalow, polo, pucka, sahib, etc.), and from Malay (for example, mangrove, batik, catechu, junk [meaning "ship"], orang-utan, agar-agar, gingham, etc.).

Finally, we have English words adopted from the Slavic languages (polka, sable, vampire, horde, steppe, redowa); from Chinese (tea, sampan, typhoon, kumquat, tong [meaning "society"]); from Japanese (geisha, samurai, obi, hara-kiri, jiu-jitsu); from Hungarian (goulash, coach); from Turkish (pasha, odalisk, khan [meaning "ruler"], bey, janissary); from Persian (divan, caravan, khan[meaning "inn"]); from the native languages of Africa (voodoo, okra, goober, zombie); of Australia (boomerang, kangaroo, wombat, billabong) and of Polynesia (ukulele, lei, poi); from such remote languages as Bantu (chimpanzee) and Yakutian (mammoth) and Malayam (arecaI); and words from almost any language, or dialect of a language, that has existed where English-speaking travelers have gone. Furthermore, our language is still growing -- new words are added every day, and existing words acquire new uses and meanings.




In preparing the etymologies in this dictionary, the editors have been guided by the following principles:

1. The etymologies must be readily understandable. The style and arrangement of our material have been devised with a view to the convenience of our readers, and the greatest possible clarity and freedom from ambiguities. We have avoided the use of abstruse terms that might confuse and discourage our readers, and we have used only such few symbols and abbreviations as are already well known or may be easily understood by them.

2. We have tried to make the etymologies as interesting as possible. We have added allusions and explanatory material, designed to make the etymologies more alive and meaningful, and to furnish the reader with valuable insights into the ideas and customs of the various peoples that have contributed to the development of our language. We have, wherever we considered it of interest, added to our etymology a "basic sense," which represents the meaning underlying our word, and the way in which that meaning is applied in its later development. Otherwise, the mere citing of source words might seem cold and lifeless.

3) The etymologies must be useful. We have tried to offer our readers the most accurate and up-to-date information, furnishing them the best raw material for word-building and word recognition. We have treated the origin and development of every word through all its significant changes in form and meaning, from its earliest known source. Often we have arrived at the original and true meaning in the last source word cited in the etymology. In many other instances, we have pushed back even farther, in search of the original meaning, all the way to the Indo-European root. This is the first dictionary of comparable size that has offered to its readers such complete and useful information on the origin and history of our English words.

We have treated most fully the source words in languages that are of the greatest importance in the formation of English, as the Germanic languages, the Romance languages, Latin and Greek. Source words in more remote languages, such as Chinese, Malay, Turkish, etc., have often been treated more briefly.

We have omitted intermediate forms, such as Middle English and Old French words, when they did not embody significant stages in the development of a word, but we have cited every form (granting that the information was available) that is necessary for a full understanding of the origin and history of each English word. We have in some cases even cited two or three words in a source language, one being the form most commonly found in that language at a given time, the others illustrating more clearly the transition to our own word. We have tried to be as brief as possible, without omitting any useful information.




The etymology of each word follows the last definition of the word, and is set off by double brackets [[.......]]

Homographs. When there are two or more words that are spelled alike (whether they are pronounced the same or differently), but are distinct in meaning and origin, they are numbered separately, thus: bay1, bay2, bay3, .... and each has its own definition and its own etymology. Such words are called homographs. Sometimes two or even more homographs have ultimately the same origin, though they have passed through divergent paths of development before, or even after, coming into English. These are also separately treated. For example, arm1&2, gnome1&2, trump2&3, think1&2, mark1&2, pat1&2, dab1&2.

In certain phrases, there are "hidden" homographs, that is, words that are actually different in origin and meaning, but because their histories were imperfectly understood by earlier users of our language, have been confused with more familiar words of similar form. For example, favor in the phrase curry favor is not originally the same as the ordinary word favor. The same is true of humble in humble pie, bucket in kick the bucket, hope in forlorn hope, and so on. Such phrases are separately entered and explained in this dictionary.




1. Words from other languages, and English words to which reference is made elsewhere in the dictionary, are printed in italics. For example: genuine

2. If only a part of the word cited as a source word is present in the English word, the rest of the word is not italicized.

For example: motel; ethyl.

3. Small capitals are used to indicate that the word so printed is an entry in the dictionary, and that the reader should refer to it for further information.

a. An English word used as translation of a foreign source word is printed in small capitals, when it has the same origin as the source word. For example: jugate.

b. All English words which follow the equals sign (see below) are printed in small capitals.

c. English words which are cited as related to or connected with other words cited as source words are printed in small capitals. For example: wry.

d. English words which are cited as having influenced other words which are cited as source words are printed in small capitals. For example: load

e. When an English word is derived in part from foreign elements and in part from English elements, the part or parts that are English are printed in small capitals. This occurs most frequently in words in which an English terminal is added to a foreign root. (See Compounds and Derivatives, and Punctuation par. 7)




The following symbols only are used:

+ plus. The plus sign separates the component words or parts of the etymology, each of which is present in the English word, and contributes to the development of its form and meaning. For example: pericarp

= equals. The equal sign before an English word printed in small capitals signifies that the word immediately preceding the sign has the same origin and meaning as the English word. For example: doubloon

The equals sign may also be used to connect words that are not English, and here too the sign means that the words preceding and following it have the same meaning and ultimately the same origin. For example: werewolf

* asterisk. The asterisk placed before a word indicates that the word is not found in that form in any written records that are known to us, but is assumed to have existed, by the application of linguistic laws deduced from the known facts about a language or a language group. Thus, as all Indo-European roots are reconstructed by such means, they are invariably preceded by an asterisk. For example: acid

The asterisk is used also to denote Popular Latin forms from which it is assumed that certain words in the Romance languages must be derived. For example: chafe

Another common use of the asterisk is in denoting reconstructed Germanic forms. For example: plight2

The asterisk may be omitted when a source word cited as Germanic, Celtic, etc., is found in one or more languages of the given group, but it is not attested in that language which historically and geographically is to be regarded as the immediate source. For example: gage1(The Old French word is properly to be derived from Frankish; wadi is not attested in Frankish but is, however, found in Gothic)




Many words in English come from languages that are not written in the characters of the Roman alphabet, as Greek, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, etc., or languages that have no written alphabet, as the American Indian languages. To print foreign words in their own alphabets in a dictionary such as ours would result, we feel, in baffling and discouraging our readers. Consequently, we have adopted certain methods of rendering the sounds of such languages as accurately as possible, using only the letters of our own alphabet, with some diacritical marks. This is known as transliteration. A complete description of our systems of transliteration from various languages is found elsewhere in this dictionary. Suffice it to note here that in general the consonants have approximately the same sound as in English, while the vowels have the "open" values which are commonly ascribed to the Latin vowels. Thus a in transliteration has approximately the sound of a in father rather than of the a in fate or sat; e may have approximately the sound of a in make or e in bet, but it is never to be pronounced as in be; i may have the sound of i in hit, or of the i in machine, but is never to be pronounced as the i in kite; o is generally pronounced as the ou in ought, or the o in so, but never as the o in hot; u has approximately the sound of oo in food, but is never to be pronounced as the u in nut or in pure.




Punctuation in the etymologies follows general usage, with particular applications as described herewith:

1. The semicolon following the first source word or words cited means that such word or words have the same meaning as the English word. In such a case no translation is given.

For example: liquid.

If the source word or words differ in meaning from the English word, or have meanings not found in the English word, then the translation is given, following a comma.

For example: hospital.

2. When the first source word has the same meaning as the English word, and is also spelled the same, it is not repeated, and the semicolon follows immediately the name of the first source language cited.

For example: leaf.

When the first source word is spelled the same as the English word, but differs in meaning, the source word is not repeated and the translation is given, followed by the semicolon.

For example: gang1.

3. When the first source word is spelled the same as the English word, but has the meaning, not of the English word, but of the following source word, the first source word is not cited.

For example: lien.

When the first source word is spelled the same as the English word, and both it and the following source word have the same meaning as the English word, the first source word is not cited, and the second source word is followed by a semicolon, without translation.

For example: manege.

4. When a source word has the same meaning as the English word, but has also a literal sense, or an original sense, underlying its present meaning, this sense is given after the source word, and a semicolon follows.

For example: faction, pay1. (See also Terminology section)

When the source word is different in meaning from the English word, and still has a literal or original sense, the source word is translated, and the literal or original sense follows the translation.

For example: rascal.

5. When an English word has two or more possible source words, and it is difficult to determine which one is historically the source of the English word (or indeed, it is possible that each may be partly responsible for the English word), a semicolon is used to separate these source words, whether or not they are translated.

For example: mount1

6. The semicolon is used to separate parts of an etymology that pertain to different parts of speech of the English word.

For example: arm2

7. When the first source word or words cited are from other languages, and the terminal is added in English, the punctuation is as follows:

a. When the terminal is necessary to account for the meaning of the English word, it is preceded by a comma and the plus sign.

For example: preliminary

b. When the terminal is not necessary to account for the meaning of the English word, it is preceded by a semicolon and the plus sign.

For example: auriferous

c. When the root word or words as well as the terminal are English, all are printed in italics, and neither the comma nor the semicolon is used before the terminal.

For example: quartzite (see section on Compounds & Derivatives)

8. The colon is used following a source word to indicate that the source word is broken down into its exact components.

For example: report

When the source word is broken down into its constituent elements, but these are not exact components of the source word, the breakdown is indicated by a semicolon, and the word from precedes the analysis.

For example: prosperous

9. Parentheses are used:

a. To state the source of a word, when the word and the source word have the same meaning.

For example: corsair.

b. To cite words which are connected with source words, and furnish further illustration of the development underlying the English word.

For example: camouflage

c. To cite words existing within a language group, from which the English word is presumably derived, when the exact source cannot be ascertained.

For example: flare

d. To cite flexional stems of nouns, and participial forms of verbs, used as source words.

For example: legal; rotate; flex

e. To state allusions, basic senses, literal senses, original senses, or other explanatory material.

For example: clever; citrin; chevron

f. To separate the various parts of an etymology for the sake of clarity in style.

For example: rush1; meteorology




When foreign prefixes cited in the etymologies are used in the foreign languages as prefixes only, and are not found as independent words, they are always hyphenated.

For example: Lat. re- & ambi-; AS ge-

When such elements in foreign compounds exist also as independent words -- usually prepositions or adverbs -- they are not hyphenated in the etymologies, when the prepositional or adverbial force is clearly felt.

For example: perfect

The hyphen is, however, used when:

a. The adverbial or prepositional force that the word has when used alone is lost or is not felt in the compound.

For example: accelerate; adore

b. The sense is one that the prefix can have only in compounds, and not when it is used as a preposition or adverb.

For example: anagram; apocope; pellucid




1. Every source word is translated, unless it has the same meaning as the English word, in which case the semicolon follows immediately upon the source word. (See Punctuation, paragraphs 1, 2)

2. In translating Indo-European roots, or other roots, we have avoided the use of words with too specific grammatical force. We do not use the word to in translating roots which have a verbal meaning, but are not to be regarded as infinitives.

For example: bud2

We do not use the article the or a in translating roots with a nominal meaning.

For example: bottom

Where necessary to avoid ambiguity, the root is identified as to its part of speech.

For example: bug1; plebs

3. When a foreign phrase or compound is cited, and only part of it is found in the English word, the part that is not represented is placed in parentheses, and the translation is arranged in a parallel manner.

For example: street


Inflected Forms

1. When an English word, other than a verb, is derived from a participial form of the very in the source language, this is stated as follows:

cession; cerate

2. When an English verb is derived in sense from the infinitive but in form from the participial stem of the verb in the source language, this is indicated by citing the participle in parentheses after the infinitive.

For example: rotate; flex (see Punctuation, par. 9d)

In some cases, the English verb may be derived from the infinitive in the source language, but the participial form is added for the purpose of making clear the etymology of other derivative forms in English.

For example: reduce

3. When an English noun or adjective is derived not from the nominative form but from the stem of the inflected forms of the noun or adjective in the source language, the inflected stem is cited with a hyphen, and is placed in parentheses following the nominative form.

For example: legal  (see Punctuation, par. 9d)

Sometimes, for greater clarity, not the stem but the full inflected form is cited.

For example: myosin




Related (abbreviated rel.): a word is said to be related to another if both can be traced to a common source, whether or not they have the same meaning. For example: father, mother, acre, wing, and all numerals from one through ten.

Connected (abbreviated conn.): a word is said to be connected with another word if the relationship is more immediate, as with words within the same language, or the same language group.

For example: rare2, ram, emulate, web


Imitative: This term as used by us indicates that the origin of the word is found in a mere sound, as uttered by a child, animal, etc., or otherwise heard. In this sense it is synonymous with the term echoic and onomatopoeic, used in other dictionaries. Such words are ana, ahem, papa, peewee, howl, mutter, whack, swish, etc. The term is also used by us to denote words which describe gestures or facial expressions which are accompanied by certain characteristic sounds. Examples of this are blubber1, poke1, plump2, mum1&2, mote, gondola, etc.

Probably (abbreviated prob.): This term indicates that the weight of evidence strongly supports our conclusions, though other possibilities are not excluded. For example: wen1, flush1, flannel.

Perhaps: This term signifies that the information given fits the facts, and presents a reasonable assumption not without authoritative support, but that conclusive evidence is lacking. For example: fake1, fagot.

Possibly: This term signifies that the information offered represents an attempt to arrive at a consistent solution in the absence of scientific corroboration. For example: wattle2, moquette.

Said to be: This phrase is used by us to present an opinion expressed in an isolated source of doubtful reliability, or a popular notion of imaginative value, stated for what it may be worth, without any scientific claim for its accuracy. For example: ragtime, gringo, loosestrife, mongol, moose.

A word is said to be of unknown origin when, in our judgment, there is no reliable evidence on which to base any reasonable conjecture, and such explanations as may be offered by some sources are to be discounted as unfounded or purely fanciful. For example: avocet.

A word is said to be of obscure origin when we feel that there is probably some wholly consistent explanation for its origin which has, however, been lost. For example: gook.

A word is said to be of uncertain origin or uncertain connections when there are two or more plausible but mutually contradictory explanations, and the evidence is insufficient to support any definite conclusion. For example: grouse1, barren, meringue, valise, larceny, fluke3, arbutus, fandango, beige.

Influence: A word is said to be influenced by another word if it has undergone unusual modification in its form or meaning or both, owing to its close association or confusion with that other word in the minds of the users. For example: albatross, porridge, lanthorn, liege, logistics, arrant, arbor2

Association, Associated: These terms are used to indicate that one word has been closely connected in use with another word of similar or identical form, though not necessarily related. Generally such association results in a modification in the form or meaning of the first word. For example: falcon, alchemy, aegis, lethal, belfry, mica.

Altered, Alteration: These terms signify that a word has undergone an unexpected change in its form during its history, in some cases because it passed through some dialectal or substandard speech-form, in others as a result of its association with some other word, and sometimes for reasons that are not readily traceable. For example: fixture, martingalee, morris dance.

Corrupted, Corruption: These terms indicate that a word has been changed in form and sometimes also in meaning, in such a way that its original form is no longer readily recognizable. This usually results from association of the word -- through ignorance of its true meaning -- with some other unrelated word. For example: groundsel1, porridge, lanyard, barberry, necromancy.

Identified: A word is said to be identified with another word in form or meaning or both, when the two words have merged in use, and the proper distinction between them is no longer maintained. For example: curlew, lewd, lists, marijuana, mendacious.

Literally (abbreviated lit.), literal sense (abbreviated lit. sense): These terms indicate that a word is found in a sense which cannot readily be derived from the sum of its component parts. We may nevertheless assume that the word must have had the meaning found in its constituent elements at the time it was formed. For example: grippe, faldstool, flour, leer, belladonna, bouillabaisse, baroque.

Originally (abbreviated orig.), original sense (abbreviated orig. sense): These terms are used to introduce a meaning which a word had at an earlier stage (and which may indeed still be present in the word), which serves to illuminate its sense development. For example: grisette, lean2, liber, valuable, beach, bless.

Basic Sense: This term is used to indicate the meaning underlying the later sense development of a word. It is most often used to illustrate the meaning conveyed by the Indo-European root. For example: lead2, letter, match2, band3, prairie, luck, mediocre, fear, evil.

Faulty Separation:. When a word is often heard in conjunction with another word, such as the article, and the proper form of the word is not clearly present in the minds of its users, the boundary between the two words may become blurred, resulting in an erroneous division of the words. Often this incorrect form may persist, and eventually pass into accepted usage. For example: apron, adder, auger, eyas, newt, nickname, nonce, notch, ought3.

Special Use: This term signifies that a word in the course of its development has acquired an unexpected sense, which may be a figurative use in some way suggested by its earlier meaning, or may be purely arbitrary or fanciful. For example: glamour, dab2, griffon2, flout.

Germanic or of Germanic origin:. These terms indicate in a general way that the source of the word cited is to be sought in some language of the Germanic family. With regard to Old French and Provenal words, the source is usually Frankish; with regard to Italian words, usually Old High German or Langobardic, or in rare cases Gothic.

Of Mediterranean origin: This term is used to designate words borrowed by Latin and Greek from non-Indo-European prehistoric languages spoken in the Mediterranean region, of which the remains are too scanty to permit closer identification.

Of Eastern origin: This term is used to designate words borrowed by Latin and Greek from languages spoken in ancient times in Asia Minor and the region surrounding the Black Sea, when it is generally not possible to trace the exact source.




A. Compounds.


1. If an English word is composed entirely of words or combining elements that appear as entries in the dictionary, then the component elements are printed in italics, and separated by the plus sign.

For example: afire, gyrostat

2. When the English compound is not the exact sum, either in form or in meaning, of the constituent elements, the analysis is made by using the word see before the elements, and the ampersand (&) instead of the plus sign.

For example: accustom

3. If one or more of the elements in an English word are not found as entries in the vocabulary, then the compound is analyzed in full, and each element is translated:

For example: aeronaut (aero- is found in the dictionary, but naut is not)

4. When a foreign compound is cited as the source of an English word, and the elements of which it is composed are all clearly represented in words or combining elements that appear in the vocabulary, the analysis may be made simply by referring to the English elements.

For example: debar

When, however, there is not exact correspondence, either in form or in meaning, the elements are analyzed and translated in full.

For example: disgorge (gorge is found in the vocabulary, but it does not have the meaning of the Old French word)

5. When an English compound is formed partly of foreign elements and partly of English words or combining forms found in the vocabulary, the part of the word that is English is set off by small caps.

For example: nickelodeon (the first element is found in the vocabulary but the second element is not), gastric, adipose (the first element is a foreign word, and the terminal is added in English)


B. Derivatives


1. Obvious prefixes and terminals are not given for most derivative words. For example, it is not necessary to give comedy + -an for comedian, or -re + finish for refinish. Also, when a terminal appearing in an English word represents a regular accommodation of the terminal seen in the foreign source word, it is usually not cited.

For example: autonomous (in a strict etymological sense, the terminal -ous seen in English autonomous represents not the terminal -os of the Greek word, but the Latin terminal -osus)

2. Terminals are, however, cited in the following cases:

a. When the application of the terminal to the root word is not immediately apparent.

For example: authoritarian, pietism

b. When the terminal has scientific or technical significance, as in the numerous derivatives formed by adding -ol, -ate, -oid, -ide, -ine, etc.

c. When the terminal is added in English to elements from other languages (see Punctuation, par. 7b)