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Etymology: Definition, History, Functions Essay

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2021

Etymology definition

Etymology is a branch of linguistic that deals with etymologies, this is the determination of linguistics, earliest known use, and development. Origin form is also shown to determine the basic elements; this also traces back the linguistic transmission of one language to another and also in the same sense identifying in other languages its cognates (Etymology). In a simpler term etymology is the source and development of word study. However form and meaning of word have changed due to time and this is where etymology comes handy.


There was increased need by linguistics in the 5th century to be able to understand meaning of most words which were found to be strange. This was mainly done with an aim of understating how languages relate and how it has evolved over the years this was being achieved in 18th century when much linguistic research and study was being done. It’s during this time when meaning of etymology was revealed and its applicability Panini and Pindar played a major role in elaboration of the word to unearth its meaning (Marko, 78). This was so as to satisfy the contemporary requirement the word origins have to be changed. The ancient Indians were the first to evaluate on the word etymology and get its meaning. Therefore, the they did detailed analysis of the word by getting its meaning and application in grammar. There are four famous Sanskrit namely; Yaska (c.6th-5th century BCE), Panini (c. 520-460 BCE), Katyayana (2nd century BCE) and Patanjali (2nd century BCE). These are also accompanied by the Socratic dialogue Cratylus (c. 360 BC) ancient philosophical text found in the ancient Greek and dealt with etymology.

Functions of etymology

Etymology is used in comparative language methods to enable constructions of information from such languages. It is used to provide a linkage of information from languages which are older and might not be available.

Comparative method of related language analysis by use of this technique, with the vocabularies of the shared parent language, linguists can be able to make interface from this attributes. This has helped trace back the origin of word roots and the result are found if one adheres to this method, the best example is the Indo-European language family.

Etymology is used for the philological research to trace words by aid of older text. From philological tradition is the original founder of the etymological research, from here much of the research of etymology is through on-language families, this is where we find that no or little documentation was ever formulated, this is like in the case of Austronesia and Uralic (Marko, 59).

Etymology is also used in dialectological data formation by showing variation on forms and meaning between dialects (Etymology). Etymology is used and helpful in Etym the study of changes in semantic by changing particular word meaning hypotheses which test semantic shift general knowledge.


Based on the research of Etymologist I here in conclude that is used in application of text of languages which were written long time in history and are no longer used. It is also represent text about languages, by being able to obtain knowledge of how earlier words were being used and when they were used and how they were incorporated in today’s language. These have helped scholars to critically understand the relationship between words and their origin in modern era. This transforms the study of linguistic and gives it rich historical meaning of numerous words which have been derived from several languages and one is able to pin point each of the origin by the use of etymology study.

Work Cited

Etymology. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. [2010]. Web.

Marko, Snoj. Encyclopedia of Linguistics- Etymology. New York: Fitzroy Dearborn. 2005. Print.

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