Last week’s entry took a look at the words learn & study. This week we’ll take an etymological look at a topic that (in my humble opinion) gets an inordinate amount of focus – the purported measurement of learning.
The word test came to English in the 1300s through Old French from Latin, originally meaning an earthen pot used in assaying precious metals. It took until 1590 for it to generalize to mean trial or examination to determine correctness.
In the last few decades, the educational community has become fond of the word assessment, which showed up in English in the 1540s, and, like test, came through Old French from Latin. It originally referred to a value of property for tax purposes. Assess comes from the Latin word assidere, to sit by (referring to the fact that the judge or assessor was usually seated while proclaiming property’s value). By the 1640s assessment also meant an estimation. Assessment didn’t discover its application to education until the 1950s.
The verb quiz, showed up in English in 1847 from the Latin qui es?, who are you? (the first thing one must answer on a quiz). By 1867, quiz made its way into the world of nouns, however, at that point quiz meant an odd or eccentric person. Quiz’s next life as a noun started in 1807, when a quiz was a hoax, a practical joke, or piece of humbug. By 1891 the noun quiz began its long association with the classroom & began to mean the act of questioning, specifically of a class or student by a teacher.
So, dear blogophiles, what irony, humor, or intrigue do you find in these word histories?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymonline.com MerriamWebster.com, & the OED.
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.