I find it intriguing that human behavior isn’t always humane, at least by my understanding of humane. Like so many things, humane is in the eye of the beholder.
Both human & humane have their roots in the Latin word humus, or of the earth (as opposed to of the heavens). Before the Latin made its way to English, though, it passed through French, becoming humain or umain.
English speakers in the 1500s used the adjectives human & humane interchangeably. Meanings included:
-having qualities befitting human beings
After a couple of centuries, though, the two adjectives bifurcated. Humane began to mean having qualities befitting human beings, while human meant of man. Interestingly, even after the bifurcation, the opposite of humane can either be inhumane or inhuman.
Some words closely related to humane & human include:
humanity (1300s) meaning kindness or graciousness -- by the 1400s, humanity meant human nature or human form, & by the 1450s it meant the human race
humankind (1640s) a more inclusive form of mankind
humanitarian (1794) one who affirms the humanity of Christ, but denies his pre-existence & divinity -- by 1824 humanitarian meant a philanthropist who advocates or practices human action to solve social problems
humanoid (1906) was the brand name of a type of cow’s milk the purveyors claimed was closer to human milk than the milk sold by competitors -- by 1920, humanoid meant an anthropological hybrid, & by 1940, it meant having the appearance of being human
Good readers, what in this post did you find most unlikely, startling, or just plain weird? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Merriam-Webster, the OED, Wordnik, & 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.
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