What’s Etymosheeple, you ask? It’s explained here.
After our last exciting round of Etymosheeple, ending on the word adolescent Rachel6 of Sesquipedalian Dreamer contacted me, noting that she’s always associated the words adolescent & nascent, so nascent will be our next stop this round (thanks, Rachel6).
Nascent arrived in English in 1620 from the Latin word nascentum, meaning immature, arising, or young. Nascentum comes from the Latin word nasci, or to be born.
What other words also come from nasci? A smoking heap of them.
Obvious ones associated with birth include:
natal (late 1300s)
Renaissance (1840s – I would’ve guessed earlier)
Not-so-obvious ones include:
cognate, meaning of common descent. Though the words springing from nasci in this list are broadly related cognates, cognates are typically more closely related (like the French nuit, German nacht & English night).
But wait, there are more...
nee, as in Jacqueline Kennedy, nee Onassis)
innate, as in innate talents
Noel, as in Christmas
native, nation & nature
And my favorite of the bunch, puny, which entered English in the 1570s, meaning inferior in rank, from the Middle French word, puisné, which came from Latin that I’ll simplify as post-nasci, meaning after being born.
Thinking Etymosheepishly, the word puny leads me to wonder about other words meaning small (teeny, tiny, teensy), & whether they owe their –y endings to nasci, (as puny does) or to the more traditional diminutive –y ending we find in puppy orbaby.
And the answer is….maybe. It turns out both teensy (1899) & teeny (1825) are alternative forms of tiny (1400), which appears to have come from the word tine, (as in the tines of a fork), and may have been formed by adding the diminutive-making –y to the word tine, but nobody knows for sure.
Thanks for joining me for this particularly directionless round of Etymosheeple.
This week in the comments section, I’d love to see words with unlikely spellings. Mention one, mention two, mention a dozen…
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the OED, Wordnik, & Etymonline.
The Urban Dictionary defines sheeple as people who follow trends mindlessly. Instead of trends, I mindlessly follow word histories. I refer to this practice as etymosheepling. Here’s an example:
I randomly land on the word genuine, meaning natural or not acquired. It arrived in English in the 1590s, its Latin root being gignere, meaning beget. Genuine’s etymological notes suggest that its form (ending in –ine) may have been influenced through contrast to adulterinus, which meant spurious or false.
Adulterinus? It must be associated with adultery, but is it associated with adult? Etymosheepling rules lead me to look up adultery & adult.
Adultery is related to adulterate, both words coming from the Latin word adulterare, to corrupt. Adult – on the other hand – came from the Latin adultus, meaning grown up, mature, adult or ripe. Adult came into English in the 1530s. The etymological notes under adult explain – and I can’t believe I never imagined the connection – that adultus is the past participle of adolescere, to grow up, mature, or be nourished. This means that the root words for adolescent & adult reflect the same sort of growth reflected by in-the-flesh adolescents as they change to adults.
That would lead me to…WAIT!
I could go all night. I love this stuff.
A good game of Etymosheeple can be endless. With that in mind, we’ll call this round one, with plans of continuing next week.
Please join in the game, suggest in the comments section a thread we might follow from the final etymology or definition above.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: the OED, Wordnik, The Urban Dictionary, & Etymonline.
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.