Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Etymology

Here’s an article on the etymology of lots of words related to the Covid virus — LANGUAGE in a TIME of CORONA

The details here are really fascinating:

As with much of the early medical terminology, CRISIS migrated to English from Greece via Rome. The Greek word is krisis, and it was used in medicine by Hippocrates and Galen, but its general sense in ancient Greek was “judgment, the result of a trial, a selection.” It is from the verb krinein “to separate, decide, judge,” which probably is from a PIE root meaning “to sieve.”

To sieve or sift is, figuratively “to discriminate, to distinguish” (as when the police inspectors “sift through the evidence”). Sifting and winnowing were essential activities in agricultural communities, and their purpose is to separate that which is good or usable from that which is neither. Judgment is implied.

The Old English cognate is hriddel “a sieve.” Native English had the word only in a literal sense, and its best-known survival now probably is the derived verb RIDDLE“perforate with many holes.” (The other RIDDLE, the “word-puzzle” sense, is from a different root and is related to READand RHYME).

But beyond homely Old English the PIE “sieve” root has had a prolific sense development. In Latin it yielded both literal (cribrum “a sieve”) and figurative senses (crimen “indictment, accusation”), and words that had both: cernere “to sift, separate,” also “to distinguish.”

There’s lots more. Click through and read the whole (fascinating) thing.

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2 Comments Etymology

  1. Rachel

    A commenter here sent me the link to that site on the off chance I might enjoy it. As you see, he was right!

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