Yep, I went there. Even though I’m concerned that writing about the etymology of the word etymology might rip a hole in the space time continuum and plunge us all, screaming, into a black abyss…
Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. So, I’m sure you know what this means. It’s the study of the origin and history of words, as well as how their meaning has changed over time. So the etymology of a word (something I bang on about all the time in these posts) means the origin of a particular word.
The word etymology comes from the Greek word ‘etumología’. This comes from ‘étumon’, which means ‘true sense’ or ‘truth’, and ‘-logia’ which means ‘the study of’. So the literal translation of it is ‘the study of truth’. Which is nice.
There’s a lovely quote about etymology from author Robert Macfarlane in his book ‘Landmarks’ [note from me: I realise this is also at the top of this page. Sorry. But it’s really nice.] (about the relationship between words and landscapes):
‘Etymology illuminates – a mundane word is suddenly starlit.’
(Bonus word: if you’re talking about the origin of a place name – as I’m sure you often do – and you fancy being a bit pretentious, you can tell whoever you’re with that you’re discussing its ‘toponymy’. Ooh, get you.)