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Origin of Words

QUESTION: How important is origin of words to our understanding of them?


The largest English dictionary contains 290,000 entries with over 616,500 forms of those words! Other people have estimated the total number of words to start at around 3 million! 200,000 words are commonly used today.

Does it help us understand our vocabulary better if know the origin of words? You may have noticed in a spelling bee, the child can ask for the word's origin. Why is that? We can often learn a meaning of a word or how to spell that word by understanding the parts of the word. For example, the ancient Greek word "hippos" means horse and "potamus" means river. So, we can gather that hippopotamus is a river horse.

The study of the origin of words is called Etymology. We can study the changes in a word through time by researching old books and manuscripts. Etymologists study the construction of a word and compare languages to discover the history and origin of a word.

As we become familiar with various root words, we can gain more knowledge regarding the meaning of more difficult words. The study of the origin of words can help us gain a more educated vocabulary.

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