Word Origins – semantics, meaning change over time (Etymology 2 of 2)

Etymology explores the origin of words – the history and development of individual words in a language. It asks a question you’re likely familiar with: “where did this word come from?”

The last video introduced etymology as a diachronic (historical) method that seeks to recover and build the history of words. It payed special attention to the way sounds change over time, and presented ways scholars trace a word back to its earliest retrievable form (etymon).

In this video, I shift the attention to semantics. Like sound change, meaning change is a dynamic process. Consider various types of semantic change (abstract to concrete, general to specific), origins of meaning change (calques, semantic borrowings) and changes that reveal connections between meaning & use (like archaic, poetic & obsolete words).

I’ll cap it off with the basic conventions you’ll want to notice when looking up an etymology, or follow when doing an etymology. I’ll also look at common sources of etymologies (dictionaries, popular “folk etymologies” and onomastics).