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etymology



From the Greek etymos, true meaning, and logos word, the history of a word or other linguistic element; and the science born in the 19th century concerned with tracing that history, by examining the word's development since its earliest appearance in the language; by locating its transmission into the language from elsewhere; by identifying its cognates in other languages; and by tracing it and its cognates back to a (often hypothetical) common ancestor. Cognates (from the Latin co, together, and nasci, to be born) of English words appear in many languages: our "father" is cognate with the German "Vater" and French "père," all three deriving from the Latin "pater." An etymon is the earliest known form of a word, though the term is sometimes applied to any early form.