Authored by : Prof.Arun Kumar Chatterjee

To start writing an article like this, one is spared the trouble of deciding
which comes first, the chicken or the egg!! There is no doubt that in the
evolution of any language words are formed first and then, these are
CONNECTED to form phrases and sentences. The connections must
follow certain rules of grammar and syntax, to be able to convey
understandable meanings. It cannot be denied that a large repertoire of
words is a must. It is not a question of how many words one knows, but
more importantly how many words can one use (EFFICIENTLY and
EFFECTIVELY) in communication. Here, I mean ,the most appropriate
word must strike the lips(while talking) or hit the tip of the pen(while
While talking of words and their usage one often wonders on the origin
of (these) words.
The study of the origin of words is known as etymology,in much the
same way as the word aetiology(pronounced as ‘eetee’ology) refers to
the origin or the cause(s) of a specific disease or disorder. In medieval
Latin “aetiologia” stands for “statement of causes”.
A few examples will be taken up to illustrate the origin of certain words
and how the root(s) link and relate to other similar words.
We begin with a simple word tripod. Its two major parts are tri and pod.
The first refers to “three” and the second refers to “legs” or “feet”.
We have seen tripod stands in the chemistry Labs and also tripods being
used by surveyors and photographers.
If one has a disease, very specific to the feet, he or she must visit a
podiatrist…..a doctor who specialises in the disease(s) of the feet. And
soon we encounter podium, a small stage or platform where one can
stand, in order to address a gathering( and we need feet to stand !!).
We now take a look at words with the prefix ‘iso’.
This prefix stands for same. We thus have words like isobars, isoclines, isotones, isogonal.

Isobars are lines that connect places with the same (or almost same)
average atmospheric pressure, measured over fairly long periods of
[Students of physics will recall that pressure is measured in bars. A
pressure of 1 bar is equivalent to that is 1,00,000 Newton per square
metre. This is marginally less than the current average atmospheric
pressure of 101300 Pascal, which is called a pressure of 1 atm.]
Isogonal refers to same angles. All regular hexagons, for example, have
the same value for each of their interior angles, each being equal to All
equilateral triangles are isogonal, each interior angle being equal to
Isoclines refer to families of curves with the same inclination. The
method of isoclines is a handy numerical method to solve differential
equations of the form
Isotones refer to atomic species that share the same number of
neutrons but have different number(s) of protons. A common example is
the family of carbon-12,nitrogen-13,and oxygen-14. Each has six
neutrons but 6,7,and 8 protons respectively.
And what is common to trigonometry and goniophotometer. The word
trigonometry in its own right breaks up into (tri)(gono)(metry)respectively
(three)(angle)(measurement).Because the subject originated from the study of (properties of) triangles.From this we single out the part
gono,which in some sense must refer to angle. Otherwise why do we
have goniophotometers in photometric laboratories? Typically
goniophotometers measure the light intensity in a specified
direction,determined by a specific angle.
And here we pay some respect to our friend “photo”
All of us have a fair idea that this refers,in some sense, to light. We thus have words like photovoltaic, photograph, photoelectric, photosynthesis, the meanings of which we are familiar with.
We leave the technical words for a moment and take a few examples
from our immediate and common (word-space) surroundings. What or
who is a philosopher (originating from philo and sophos).
The first stands for love (or love for) and the second for knowledge. A
philosopher is thus, justifiably, a person who is actively in pursuit of
knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge cannot be accomplished without
some independent thought. And it is qutecommon,therefore, to use the word philosophise to mean “to think” or to ‘express a thought” . A bibliophile is a lover of books. So,at the end of a research paper, for
example, we generally include a Bibliography( literally a picture of books,
so to say).
It is not only in English that we have logical constructs. The German
language is one which words are formed very scientifically. The word
lehren is the infinitive of teaching. Lehrer is a teacher. While Dorf
stands for village and Schule for school, the single word Dorfschullehrer stands for the village school teacher. (ALL German nouns start with a capital letter, without
Likewise fahren means to travel. And Karte is the German word for
ticket. Together Fahrkarte stands (very logically) for the ticket for the
There are many more examples which can be included, but that would
make the article unduly long.
The basic focus has been to highlight some pattern(s) of word formation
in English (mainly) and (marginally) in German. This is a very interesting
area of study in all languages, whether as a hobby or a passion or for
research. Goodluck to all interested readers!!

Hashtags : #IEM #UEM #words #origin #wordsoftheday
#englishvocabulary #english #Etymology #English language
#thehistoryofwords #wordsintheenglishlanguage #bibliography

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