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Title: Stories That  Words Tell Us
Author: O'Neill, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Speakman), 1877-
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories That  Words Tell Us" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

                             STORIES THAT

                            WORDS TELL US


                       ELIZABETH O'NEILL, M.A.

                    AUTHOR OF "THE WORLD'S STORY,"

                          "A NURSERY HISTORY

                          OF ENGLAND," ETC.

                   LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK, LTD.

                       35 PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C.

                            AND EDINBURGH


       *       *       *       *       *





















       *       *       *       *       *




Nearly all children must remember times when a word they know quite
well and use often has suddenly seemed very strange to them. Perhaps
they began repeating the word half to themselves again and again, and
wondered why they had never noticed before what a queer word it is.
Then generally they have forgotten all about it, and the next time
they have used the word it has not seemed strange at all.

But as a matter of fact words _are_ very strange things. Every word we
use has its own story, and has changed, sometimes many times since
some man or woman or child first used it. Some words are very old and
some are quite new, for every living language--that is, every language
used regularly by some nation--is always growing, and having new words
added to it. The only languages which do not grow in this way are the
"dead" languages which were spoken long ago by nations which are dead

Latin is a "dead" language. When it was spoken by the old Romans it
was, of course, a living language, and grew and changed; but though it
is a very beautiful language, it is no longer used as the regular
speech of a nation, and so does not change any more.

But it is quite different with a living language. Just as a baby when
it begins to speak uses only a few words, and learns more and more as
it grows older, so nations use more words as they grow older and
become more and more civilized. Savages use only a few words, not many
more, perhaps, than a baby, and not as many as a child belonging to a
civilized nation. But the people of great civilizations like England
and France use many thousands of words, and the more educated a person
is the more words he is able to choose from to express his thoughts.

We do not know how the first words which men and women spoke were
made. People who study the history of languages, and who are called
_Philologists_, or "Lovers of Words," say that words may have come to
be used in any one of three different ways; but of course this is only
guessing, for though we know a great deal about the way words and
languages grow, we do not really know how they first began. Some
people used to think that the earliest men had a language all
ready-made for them, but this could not be. We know at least that the
millions of words in use in the world to-day have grown out of quite a
few simple sounds or "root" words. Every word we use contains a story
about some man or woman or child of the past or the present. In this
chapter we shall see how some common English words can tell us stories
of the past.

In reading British history we learn how different peoples have at
different times owned the land: how the Britons were conquered by the
English; how the Danes tried to conquer the English in their turn, and
how great numbers of them settled down in the _Danelaw_, in the east
of England; how, later on, the Norman duke and his followers overcame
Harold, and became the rulers of England, and so on. But suppose we
knew nothing at all about British history, and had to guess what had
happened in the past, we might guess a great deal of British history
from the words used by English people to-day. For the English language
has itself been growing, and borrowing words from other languages all
through British history. Scholars who have studied many languages can
easily pick out these borrowed words and say from which language they
were taken.

Of course these scholars know a great deal about British history; but
let us imagine one who does not. He would notice in the English
language some words (though not many) which must have come from the
language which the Britons spoke. He would know, too, that the name
_Welsh_, which was given to the Britons who were driven into the
western parts of England, comes from an Old English word, _wealh_,
which meant "slave." He might then guess that, besides the Britons who
were driven away into the west of the country, there were others whom
the English conquered and made to work as slaves. From the name
_wealh_, or "slave," given to these, all the Britons who remained came
to be known as _Welsh_.

Yet though the English conquered the Britons, the two peoples could
not have mixed much or married very often with each other; for if they
had done so, many more British words would have been borrowed by the
English language. To the English the Britons were strangers and

We could, too, guess some of the things which these old English
conquerors of Britain did and believed from examining some common
English words. If we think of the days of the week besides _Sunday_,
or the "Sun's day," and _Monday_, the "Moon's day," we find _Tuesday_,
"Tew's day," _Wednesday_, "Woden's day," _Thursday_, "Thor's day,"
_Friday_, "Freya's day," _Saturday_, "Saturn's day," and it would not
be hard to guess that most of the days are called after gods or
goddesses whom the English worshipped while they were still heathen,
Tew was in the old English religion the bravest of all the gods, for
he gave up his own arm to save the other gods. Woden, the wisest of
the gods, had given up not an arm but an eye, which he had sold for
the waters of wisdom. Thor was the fierce god of thunder, who hurled
lightning at the giants. Freya was a beautiful goddess who wore a
magic necklace which had the power to make men love. We might then
guess from the way in which our old English forefathers named the days
of the week what sort of gods they worshipped, and what kind of men
they were--great fighters, admiring courage and strength above all
things, but poetical, too, loving grace and beauty.

But, as everybody knows, the English people soon changed their
religion and became Christians; and any student of the English
language would soon guess this, even if he knew nothing of English
history. He would be able to guess, too, that the English got their
Christianity from a people who spoke Latin, for so many of the English
words connected with religion come from the Latin language. It was, of
course, the Roman monk St. Augustine who brought the Christian
religion to the English. Latin was the language of the Romans. The
word _religion_ itself is a Latin word meaning reverence for the gods;
and _Mass_, the name given to the chief service of the Catholic
religion, comes from the Latin _missa_, taken from the words, _Ite
missa est_ ("Go; the Mass is ended"), with which the priest finishes
the Mass. _Missa_ is only a part of the verb _mittere_, "to finish."

The words _priest_, _bishop_, _monk_, _altar_, _vestment_, and many
others, came into the English language from the Latin with the
Christian religion.

Even, again, if a student of the English language knew nothing about
the invasions of England by the fierce Danes, he might guess something
about them from the fact that there are many Danish words in the
English language, and especially the names of places. Such common
words as _husband_, _knife_, _root_, _skin_, came into English from
the Danish.

But many more words were added to the English language through the
Norman Conquest. It is quite easy to see, from the great number of
French words in the English language, that France and England must at
one time have had a great deal to do with each other. But it was the
English who used French words, and not the French who used English.
This was quite natural when a Norman, or North French, duke became
king of England, and Norman nobles came in great numbers to live in
England and help to rule her.

Sir Walter Scott, in his great book "Ivanhoe," makes one man say that
all the names of living animals are English, like _ox_, _sheep_,
_deer_, and _swine_, but their flesh when it becomes meat is given
French names--_beef_, _mutton_, _venison_, and _pork_. The reason for
this is easy to see: Englishmen worked hard looking after the animals
while they were alive, and the rich Normans ate their flesh when they
were dead.

England never, of course, became really Norman. Although the English
were not so learned or polite or at that time so civilized as the
Normans, there were so many more of them that in time the Normans
became English, and spoke the English language. But when we remember
that for three hundred years French was spoken in the law courts and
by the nobility of England, and all the English kings were really
Frenchmen, it is easy to understand that a great many French words
found their way into the English language.

As it was the Normans who governed England, many of our words about
law and government came from the French. Englishmen are very proud of
the "jury system," by which every British subject is tried by his
equals. It was England who really began this system, but the name
_jury_ is French, as are also _judge_, _court_, _justice_, _prison_,
_gaol_. The English Parliament, too, is called the "Mother of
Parliaments," but _parliament_ is a French word, and means really a
meeting for the purpose of talking.

Nearly all titles, like _duke_, _baron_, _marquis_, are French, for it
was Frenchmen who first got and gave these titles; though _earl_
remains from the Danish _eorl_. It is a rather peculiar thing that
nearly all our names for _relatives_ outside one's own family come
from the French used by the Normans--_uncle_, _aunt_, _nephew_,
_niece_, _cousin_; while _father_, _mother_, _brother_, and _sister_
come from the Old English words.

In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the real "Middle Ages," the
French poets, scholars, and writers were the greatest in Europe. The
greatest doctors, lawyers, and scholars of the western lands of Europe
had often been educated at schools or universities in France. Those
who wrote about medicine and law often used French words to describe
things for which no English word was known. The French writers
borrowed many words from Latin, and the English writers did the same.
Sometimes they took Latin words from the French, but sometimes they
only imitated the French writers, and took a Latin word and changed it
to seem like a French word.

If we were to count the words used by English writers in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries, we should find that quite one-tenth of these
are words borrowed from other languages. After this time fewer words
were borrowed, but still the English language has borrowed much more
than most languages.

Some people think that it is a pity that we have borrowed so many
words, and say that we should speak and write "pure English." But we
must remember that Britain has had the most wonderful history of all
the nations. She has had the greatest explorers, adventurers, and
sailors. She has built up the greatest empire the world has ever seen.
It is only natural that her language should have borrowed from the
languages of nearly every nation in the world, even from the Chinese
and from the native languages of Australia and Africa.

Ever since the middle of the sixteenth century England has been a
great sea-going nation. Her sailors have explored and traded all over
the world, and naturally they have brought back many new words from
East and West. Sometimes these are the names of new things brought
from strange lands. Thus _calico_ was given that name from _Calicut_,
because the cotton used to make calico came from there. From Arabia we
got the words _harem_ and _magazine_, and from Turkey the name
_coffee_, though this is really an Arabian word. We had already
learned the words _cotton_, _sugar_, and _orange_ from the Arabs at
the time of the Crusades. From the West Indies and from South America
many words came, though the English learned these first from the
Spaniards, who were the first to discover these lands. Among these
words are the names of such common things as _chocolate_, _cocoa,
tomato_. The words _canoe_, _tobacco_, and _potato_ come to us from
the island of Hayti. The words _hammock_ and _hurricane_ come to us
from the Caribbean Islands, and so did the word _cannibal_, which came
from _Caniba_, which was sometimes used instead of Carib.

Even the common word _breeze_, by which we now mean a light wind,
first came to us from the Spanish word _briza_, which meant the
north-east trade wind. The name _alligator_, an animal which
Englishmen saw for the first time in these far-off voyages, is really
only an attempt to use the Spanish words for the lizard--_al lagarto_.

When the English at length settled themselves in North America they
took many words from the native Indians, such as _tomahawk_,
_moccasin_, and _hickory_.

In England and in Europe generally history shows us that there were a
great many changes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. This new
love for adventure, which gave us so many new words, was one sign of
the times. Then there were changes in manners, in religion, and in the
way people thought about things. People had quite a new idea of the
world. They now knew that, instead of being the centre of the
universe, the earth was but one of many worlds whirling through space.

The minds of men became more lively. They began to criticize all sorts
of things which they had believed in and reverenced before. During the
Middle Ages many things which the Romans and Greeks had loved had been
forgotten and despised; but now there was a sudden new enthusiasm for
the beautiful statues and fine writings of the ancient Greeks and
Romans. It was not long before this new great change got a name. It
was called the _Renaissance_, or "New Birth," because so many old and
forgotten things seemed to come to life again, and it looked as though
men had been born again into a new time.

One of the chief results of the Renaissance was a change in religion.
The Protestants declared that they had reformed or changed religion
for the better, and the change in religion is now always spoken of as
the Reformation; just as the reform of the Catholic Church which soon
followed was called the _Counter-Reformation_, or movement against the
Reformation--_counter_ coming from the Latin word for "against."

In England the Renaissance and Reformation led to great changes not
only in religion but in government, and the way people thought of
their country and their rulers. People came to have a new love for and
pride in their country. It was in the sixteenth century that the old
word _nation_, which before had meant a race or band of peoples, came
to be used as we use it now, to mean the people of one country under
one government. In the sixteenth century Englishmen became prouder
than ever of belonging to the English "nation." They felt a new love
for other Englishmen, and it was at this time that the expressions
_fellow-countrymen_ and _mother-country_ were first used.

The seventeenth century was, of course, a period during which great
things happened to the English state. It was the period of the great
Civil War, in which the Parliament fought against the king, so that it
could have the chief part in the government of the country.

All sorts of new words grew up during the Civil War. The word
_Royalist_ now first began to be used, meaning the people who were on
the king's side. The Royalists called the men who fought for the
Parliament _Roundheads_, because of their hair being cropped short,
not hanging in ringlets, as was the fashion of the day.

The people who fought against the king were all men who had broken
away from the English Church, and become much more "Protestant." They
were very strict in many ways, especially in keeping the "Sabbath," as
they called Sunday. They dressed very plainly, and they thought the
followers of the king, with their long hair and lace and ruffles, very
frivolous people indeed. It was the men of the Parliament side who
first gave the name _Cavalier_ to the Royalists. It was meant by them
to show contempt, and came from the Italian word _cavaliere_, which
means literally "a horseman," coming from the Late Latin word
_caballus_, "a horse."

It is a curious fact that we now use the word _cavalier_ as an
adjective to mean rude and off-hand, whereas the Cavaliers of the
seventeenth century certainly had much better manners than the
Roundheads; and at the end of that century the word was sometimes used
in the general sense of gay and frank.

Both sides in the Civil War invented a good many new words with which
to abuse the enemy. Milton, who wrote on the side of the Parliament,
made a great many; but the Royalists invented more, and perhaps more
expressive, words. At any rate they have been kept and used as quite
ordinary English words. The word _cant_, for instance, which every
one understands to mean pious or sentimental words which the person
who says them does not really mean, was first used in this way by the
Royalists to describe the sayings of the Parliament men who were much
given to preaching and the singing of psalms. Before that time the
word _cant_ had meant a certain kind of singing, and also the whining
sound beggars sometimes made.

In the eighteenth century, when Parliament was divided into two great
parties, their names were given to them in the same way. The _Tories_
were so called from the name given to some very wild, almost savage,
people who lived in the bog lands of Ireland; and the name _Whigs_ was
given by the Tories, and came from a Scotch word, _Whigamore_, the
name of some very fierce Protestants in the south of Scotland. At
first these names were just words of abuse, but they came to be the
regular names of the two parties, and people forgot all about their
first meanings.

The great growth in the power of the peoples of Europe since the
French Revolution has brought about great changes in the way these
countries are governed. It was the French Revolution which led to the
widespread opinion that all the people in a nation should help in the
government. It was in writing on these subjects that English writers
borrowed the words _aristocrat_ and _democrat_ from the French
writers. _Aristocracy_ comes from an old Greek word meaning the rule
of the few; but the French Revolution writers gave it a new meaning,
as something evil. Before the Revolution the name _despotism_ had been
used for the rule of a single tyrant, but it now came to mean unjust
rule, even by several people.

The French Revolution gave us several other words. We all now know the
word _terrorize_, but it only came into English from the French at the
time of the Revolution, when the French people became used to "Reigns
of Terror." But if the French Revolution gave us many of the words
which relate to democracy or government by the people, England has
always been the country of parliamentary government, and many terms
now used by the other countries of Europe have been invented in
England--words like _parliament_ itself, _bill_, _budget_, and

Nearly all the words connected with science, and especially the
"ologies," as they are called, like _physiology_ and _zoology_, are
fairly new words in English. In the Middle Ages there was no real
study of science, and so naturally there were not many words connected
with it; but in the last two centuries the study of science has been
one of the most important things in history. We shall see more of
these scientific words in another chapter.

Perhaps we have said enough in this chapter to show how each big
movement in history has given us a new group of words and how these
words are in a way historians of these movements.



We can learn some interesting stories from the history of our own
names. Most people nowadays have one or more Christian names and a
surname, but this was not always the case. Every Christian from the
earliest days of Christianity must have had a Christian name given to
him at baptism. And before the days of Christianity every man, woman,
or child must have had some name. But the practice of giving surnames
grew up only very gradually in the countries of Europe. At first only
a few royal or noble families had sur-names, or "super" names; but
gradually, as the populations of the different countries became
larger, it became necessary for people to have surnames, so as to
distinguish those with the same Christian names from each other.

In these days children are generally given for their Christian names
family names, or names which their parents think beautiful or
suitable. (Often the children afterwards do not like their own names
at all.) The Christian names of the children of European countries
come to us from many different languages. Perhaps the greatest number
come to us from the Hebrew, because these Jewish names are, of course,
found in great numbers in the Bible.

The conversion of the countries of Europe to Christianity united them
in their ways of thinking and believing, and they all honoured the
saints. The names of the early saints, whether they were from the
Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Celtic, Teutonic, or Slavonic, were soon spread
throughout all the countries of Europe, so that now French, German,
English, Italian, Spanish names, and those of the other European
countries, are for the most part the same, only spelt and pronounced a
little differently in the different countries.

The English _William_ is _Guillaume_ in French, _Wilhelm_ in German,
and so on. _John_ is _Jean_ in French, _Johann_ in German, and so on,
with many other names.

But in early times people got their names in a much more interesting
way. Sometimes something which seemed peculiar about a little new-born
baby would suggest a name. _Esau_ was called by this name, which is
only the Hebrew word for "hairy," because he was already covered by
the thick growth of hair on his body which made him so different from
Jacob. The old Roman names _Flavius_ and _Fulvius_ merely meant
"yellow," and the French name _Blanche_, "fair," or "white." Sometimes
the fond parents would give the child a name describing some quality
which they hoped the child would possess when it grew up. The Hebrew
name _David_ means "beloved."

The name _Joseph_ was given by Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob, to
the baby who came to her after long waiting. _Joseph_ means
"addition," and Rachel chose this name because she hoped another child
would yet be added to her family. She afterwards had Benjamin, the
best beloved of all Jacob's sons, and then she died.

The name Joseph did not become common in Europe till after the
Reformation, when the Catholic Church appointed a feast day for St.
Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin. Towards the end of the
eighteenth century the Emperor Leopold christened his son Joseph, and
this, and the fact that Napoleon's first wife was named Josephine,
made these two names as a boy's and a girl's name very popular. We
have both Joseph and Josephine in English, and the French have Fifine
and Finette as well as Josephine, for which these are pet names. In
Italy, too, Joseph, or Giuseppe, is a common name, and Peppo, or
Beppo, are short names for it. These pet names seem very strange when
we remember Rachel's solemn choosing of the name for the first Joseph
of all.

Sometimes the early nations called their children by the names of
animals. The beautiful old Hebrew name _Deborah_, which became also an
old-fashioned English name, means "bee." In several languages the
word for _wolf_ was given as a personal name. The Greek _Lycos_, the
Latin _Lupus_, the Teutonic _Ulf_, from which came the Latin
_Ulphilas_ and the Slavonic _Vuk_, all mean "wolf." The wolf was the
most common and the most treacherous of all the wild animals against
which early peoples had to fight, and this, perhaps, accounts for the
common use of its name. People were so impressed by its qualities that
they thought its name worthy to give to their sons, who, perhaps, they
hoped would possess some of its better qualities when they grew up.

Sometimes early names were taken from the names of precious stones, as
_Margarite_, a Greek name meaning "pearl," and which is the origin of
all the Margarets, Marguerites, etc., to be found in nearly all the
languages of Europe.

Among all early peoples many names were religious, like the Hebrew
_Ishmael_, or "heard by God;" _Elizabeth_, or the "oath of God;"
_John_, or the "grace of the Lord." The Romans had the name
_Jovianus_, which meant "belonging to Jupiter," who was the chief of
the gods in whom the Romans believed.

In some languages names, especially of women, are taken from flowers,
like the Greek _Rhode_, or "rose," the English _Rose_, and _Lily_ or
_Lilian_, and the Scotch _Lilias_.

A great many of the Hebrew names especially come from words meaning
sorrow or trouble. They were first given to children born in times of
sorrow. Thus we have _Jabez_, which means "sorrow;" _Ichabod_, or "the
glory is departed;" _Mary_, "bitter." The Jews, as we can see from the
Bible, suffered the greatest misfortunes, and their writers knew how
to tell of it in words. The Celtic nations, like the Irish, have the
same gift, and we get many old Celtic names with these same sad
meanings. Thus _Una_ means "famine;" _Ita_, "thirsty."

The Greek and Roman names were never sad like these. Some old Greek
names became Christian names when people who were called by them
became Christian in the first days of the Church. There are several
names from the Greek word _angelos_. This meant in Greek merely a
messenger, but it began to be used by the early Christian writers both
in Latin and Greek to mean a messenger from heaven, or an angel. The
Greeks gave it first as a surname, and then as a Christian name. In
the thirteenth century there was a St. Angelo in Italy, and from the
honour paid to him the name spread, chiefly as a girl's name, to the
other countries of Europe, giving the English _Angelina_ and
_Angelica_, the French _Angelique_, and the German _Engel_.

Besides this general name of _angel_, the name of Michael, the
archangel, and Gabriel, the angel of the Annunciation, became
favourite names among Eastern Christians. The reason _Michael_ was
such a favourite was that the great Emperor Constantine dedicated a
church to St. Michael in Constantinople. The name is so much used in
Russia that it is quite common to speak of a Russian peasant as a
"Michael," just as people rather vulgarly speak of an Irish peasant as
a "Paddy." Michael can hardly be called an English name, but it is
almost as common in Ireland as Patrick, which, of course, is used in
honour of Ireland's patron saint. _Gabriel_ is a common name in Italy,
as is also another angel's name, _Raphael_. _Gabriel_ is used as a
girl's name in France--_Gabrielle_.

No Christian would think of using the name of God as a personal name;
but _Theos_, the Greek word for God, was sometimes so used by the
Greeks. A Greek name formed from this, _Theophilos_, or "beloved by
the gods," became a Christian name, and the name of one of the early

The name _Christ_, or "anointed," was the word which the Greek
Christians (who translated the Gospels into the Greek of their time)
used for the _Messiah_. From this word came the name _Christian_, and
from it _Christina_. One of the early martyrs, a virgin of noble Roman
birth, who died for her religion, was St. Christina. In Denmark the
name became a man's name, _Christiern_. Another English name which is
like Christina is _Christabel_. The great poet Coleridge in the
nineteenth century wrote the beginning of a beautiful poem called
"Christabel." The name was not very common before this, and was not
heard of until the sixteenth century, but it is fairly common now.

Another favourite Christian name from the name of _Christ_ is
_Christopher_, which means the bearer or carrier of Christ, and we are
told in a legend how St. Christopher got this name. He had chosen for
his work to carry people across a stream which had no bridge over it.
One day a little boy suddenly appeared, and asked him to carry him
across. The kind saint did so, and found, as he got farther into the
stream, that the child grew heavier and heavier. When the saint put
him down on the other side he saw the figure of the man Christ before
him, and fell down and adored Him. Ever afterwards he was known as
_Christopher_, or the "Christ-bearer."

Another Christian name which comes from a Greek word is _Peter_.
_Petros_ is the Greek word for "stone," and _Petra_ for "rock." The
name _Peter_ became a favourite in honour of St. Peter, whose name was
first _Simon_, but who was called _Peter_ because of the words our
Lord said to him: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my

When the barbarian tribes, such as the English and Franks, broke into
the lands of the Roman Empire and settled there, afterwards being
converted to Christianity, they chose a good many Latin words as
names. In France names made from the Latin word _amo_ ("I love") were
quite common. We hear of _Amabilis_ ("lovable"), _Amadeus_ ("loving
God"), _Amandus_, which has now become a surname in France as _St.
Amand_. In England, _Amabilis_ became _Amabel_, which is not a very
common name now, but from which we have _Mabel_. _Amy_ was first used
in England after the Norman Conquest, and comes from the French
_Amata_, or _Aimée_, which means "beloved."

Another Latin word of the same kind which gave us some Christian names
was _Beo_ ("I bless"). From part of this verb, _Beatus_ ("blessed"),
there was an old English name, _Beata_, but no girl or woman seems to
have been called by it since the seventeenth century. _Beatrix_ and
_Beatrice_ also come from this. The name _Benedict_, which sometimes
became in English _Bennet_, came from another word like this,
_Benignus_ ("kind"). _Boniface_, from the Latin _Bonifacius_ ("doer of
good deeds"), was a favourite name in the early Church, and the name
of a great English saint; but it is not used in England now, though
there is still the Italian name, _Bonifazio_, which comes from the
same word.

Both Christian names and surnames have been taken from the Latin _Dies
Natalis_, or "Birthday of our Lord." The French word for Christmas,
_Noël_, comes from this, and, as well as _Natalie_, is used as a
Christian name. _Noël_ is found, too, both as a Christian name and
surname in England. At one time English babies were sometimes
christened _Christmas_, but this is never used as a Christian name
now, though a few families have it as a surname.

Perhaps the most peculiar Christian names that have ever been were the
long names which some of the English Puritans gave their children in
the seventeenth century. Often they gave them whole texts of Scripture
as names, so that at least one small boy was called "Bind their nobles
in chains and their kings in fetters of iron." Let us hope his
relatives soon found some other name to call him "for short."

Everybody has heard of the famous Cromwellian Parliament, which would
do nothing but talk, and which was called the "Barebones Parliament,"
after one of its members, who not only bore this peculiar surname, but
was also blessed with the "Christian" name of _Praise-God_. Cromwell
grew impatient at last, and Praise-God Barebones and the other talkers
suddenly found Parliament dissolved. These names were not, as a rule,
handed on from father to son, and soon died out, though in America
even to-day we get Christian names somewhat similar, but at least
shorter--names like _Willing_.

It is often easier to see how we got our Christian names than how we
got our surnames. As we have seen, there was a time when early peoples
had only first names. The Romans had surnames, or _cognomina_, but the
barbarians who won Europe from them had not.

In England surnames were not used until nearly a hundred years after
the Norman Conquest, and then only by kings and nobles. The common
people in England had, however, nearly all got them by the fourteenth
century; but in Scotland many people were still without surnames in
the time of James I., and even those who had them could easily change
one for another. Once a man got a surname it was handed on to all his
children, as surnames are to-day.

It is interesting to see in how many different ways people got their
surnames. Sometimes this is easy, but it is more difficult in other

The first surnames in England were those which the Norman nobles who
came over at the Conquest handed on from father to son. These people
generally took the name of the place from which they had come in
Normandy. In this way names like _Robert de Courcy_ ("Robert of
Courcy") came in; and many of these names, which are considered very
aristocratic, still remain. We have _de Corbet_, _de Beauchamp_, _de
Colevilles_, and so on. Sometimes the _de_ has been dropped.
Sometimes, again, people took their names in the same way from places
in England. We find in old writings names like _Adam de Kent_, _Robert
de Wiltshire_, etc. Here, again, the prefix has been dropped, and the
place-name has been kept as a surname. _Kent_ is quite a well-known
surname, as also are _Derby_, _Buxton_, and many other names of
English places.

The Normans introduced another kind of name, which became very common
too. They were a lively people, like the modern French, and were very
fond of giving nicknames, especially names referring to people's
personal appearance. We get the best examples of this in the
nicknames applied to the Norman kings. We have William _Rufus_, or
"the Red;" Richard _Coeur-de-Lion_, or "Lion-Hearted;" Henry
_Beauclerc_, or "the Scholar."

These names of kings were not handed down in their families. But in
ordinary families it was quite natural that a nickname applied to the
father should become a surname. It is from such nicknames that we get
surnames like _White_, _Black_, _Long_, _Young_, _Short_, and so on.
All these are, of course, well-known surnames to-day, and though many
men named _Long_ may be small, and many named _Short_ may be tall, we
may guess that this was not the case with some far-off ancestor.
Sometimes _man_ was added to these adjectives, and we get names like
_Longman_, _Oldman_, etc.

Sometimes these names were used in the French of the Normans, and we
get two quite different surnames, though they really in the first
place had the same meaning. Thus we have _Curt_ for _Short_, and the
quite well-known surname _Petit_, which would be _Short_ or _Little_
in English. The name _Goodheart_ was _Bun-Couer_ in Norman-French, and
from this came _Bunker_, which, if we knew nothing of its history,
would not seem to mean _Goodheart_ at all. So the name _Tait_ came
from _Tête_, or _Head_; and we may guess that the first ancestor of
the numerous people with this name had something remarkable about
their heads. The name _Goodfellow_ is really just the same as
_Bonfellow_. The surname _Thin_ has the same meaning as _Meagre_,
from which the common name _Meager_ comes.

Names like _Russell_ (from the old word _rouselle_, or "red"),
_Brown_, _Morell_ ("tan"), _Dun_ ("dull grey"), all came from
nicknames referring to people's complexions. _Reed_ and _Reid_ come
from the old word _rede_, or "red." We still have the names
_Copperbeard_, _Greybeard_, and _Blackbeard_.

Sometimes names were given from some peculiarity of clothing.
_Scarlet_, an old English name, probably came from the colour of the
clothing of the people who were first called by it--scarlet, like all
bright colours, being very much liked in the Middle Ages. So we hear
of the name _Curtmantle_, or "short cloak," and _Curthose_, which was
later changed to _Shorthose_, which is still a well-known name in
Derbyshire. The names _Woolward_ and _Woolard_ come from the old word
_woolard_, which meant wearing wool without any linen clothing
underneath. This was often done by pilgrims and others who wished to
do penance for their sins.

Many surnames have come down from nicknames given to people because of
their good or bad qualities. This is the origin of names like _Wise_,
_Gay_, _Hardy_, _Friend_, _Truman_, _Makepeace_, _Sweet_, etc. The
people who have these names may well believe that the first of their
ancestors who bore them was of a gentle and amiable disposition. Names
like _Proud_, _Proudfoot_, _Proudman_, _Paillard_ (French for
"lie-a-bed") show that the first people who had them were not so well
liked, and were considered proud or lazy.

Another way of giving nicknames to people because of something
noticeable in their character or appearance was to give them the name
of some animal having this quality. The well-known name of _Oliphant_
comes from _elephant_, and was probably first given to some one very
large, and perhaps a little ungraceful. _Bullock_ as a surname
probably had the same sort of origin. The names _Falcon_, _Hawk_,
_Buzzard_, must have been first given to people whose friends and
neighbours saw some resemblance to the quickness or fierceness or
sureness or some other quality of these birds in them. The names
_Jay_, _Peacock_, and _Parrott_ point to showiness and pride and empty

A very great number of surnames are really only old Christian names
either with or without an ending added to them. A very common form of
surname is a Christian name with _son_ added to it. The first man who
handed on the name _Wilson_ (or _Willson_, as it is still sometimes
spelt) was himself the "son of Will." Any one can think of many names
of this kind--_Williamson_, _Davidson_, _Adamson_, etc. Sometimes the
founder of a family had taken his name from his mother. This was the
origin of names like _Margerison_ ("Marjorie's son") and _Alison_
("Alice's son"). This was a very common way of inventing surnames.

The Norman _Fitz_ meant "son of," and the numerous names beginning
with _Fitz_ have this origin. _Fitzpatrick_ originally meant the "son
of Patrick," _Fitzstephen_ the "son of Stephen," and so on. The Irish
prefix _O'_ has the same meaning. The ancestor of all the O'Neills was
himself the son of _Neill_. The Scandinavian _Nillson_ is really the
same name, though it sounds so different. The Scotch _Mac_ has the
same meaning, and so have the Welsh words _map_, _mab_, _ap_, and

One very interesting way of making surnames was to take them from the
trade or occupation of the founder of the family. Perhaps the
commonest of English surnames is _Smith_. And the word for _Smith_ is
the commonest surname in almost every country of Europe. In France we
have _Favier_.

The reason for this is easy to see. The smith, or man who made iron
and other metals into plough-shares and swords, was one of the most
important of all the workers in the early days when surnames were
being made. There were many smiths, and John the Smith and Tom the
Smith easily became John Smith and Tom Smith, and thus had a surname
to pass on to their families.

As time went on there came to be many different kinds of smiths. There
was the smith who worked in gold, and was called a "goldsmith," from
which we get the well-known surname _Goldsmith_, the name of a great
English writer. Then there was the "nail smith," from which trade came
the name _Nasmith_; the "sickle smith," from which came _Sixsmith_;
the "shear smith," which gave us _Shearsmith_--and so on.

In mediæval England the manufacture of cloth from the wool of the
great flocks of sheep which fed on the pasture lands of the
monasteries and other great houses, was the chief industry of the
nation. This trade of wool-weaving has given us many surnames, such as
_Woolmer_, _Woolman_, _Carder_, _Kempster_, _Towser_, _Weaver_,
_Webster_, etc. Some of these referred to the general work of
wool-weaving and others to special branches.

Any child can think in a moment of several names which have come in
this way from trades. We have _Taylor_ for a beginning.

But many surnames which are taken from the names of trades come from
Old English words which are now seldom or never used. _Chapman_, a
common name now, was the Old English word for a general dealer.
_Spicer_ was the old name for grocer, and is now a fairly common
surname. The well-known name of _Fletcher_ comes from the almost
forgotten word _flechier_, "an arrowmaker." _Coltman_ came from the
name of the man who had charge of the colts. _Runciman_ was the man
who had charge of horses too, and comes from another Old English word,
_rouncy_, "a horse." The _Parkers_ are descended from a park-keeper
who used to be called by that name. The _Horners_ come from a maker of
horns; the _Crockers_ and _Crokers_ from a "croker," or "crocker," a
maker of pottery. _Hogarth_ comes from "hoggart," a hog-herd;
_Calvert_ from "calf-herd;" and _Seward_ from "sow-herd." _Lambert_
sometimes came from "lamb-herd."

But we cannot always be sure of the origin of even the commonest
surnames. For instance, every person named _Smith_ is not descended
from a smith, for the name also comes from the old word _smoth_, or
"smooth," and this is the origin of _Smith_ in _Smithfield_.

A great many English surnames were taken from places. _Street_,
_Ford_, _Lane_, _Brooke_, _Styles_, are names of this kind. Sometimes
they were prefixed by the Old English _atte_ ("at") or the French _de
la_ ("of the"), but these prefixes have been dropped since. _Geoffrey
atte Style_ was the Geoffrey who lived near the stile--and so on.

Nearly all the names ending in _hurst_ and _shaw_ are taken from
places. A _hurst_ was a wood or grove; a _shaw_ was a shelter for
fowls and animals. The chief thing about a man who got the surname of
_Henshaw_ or _Ramshaw_ was probably that he owned, or had the care of,
such a shelter for hens or rams.

Names ending in _ley_ generally came into existence in the same way, a
_ley_ being also a shelter for domestic animals. So we have _Horsley_,
_Cowley_, _Hartley_, _Shipley_ (from "sheep"). Sometimes the name was
taken from the kind of trees which closed such a shelter in, names
like _Ashley_, _Elmsley_, _Oakley_, _Lindley_, etc.

Surnames as well as Christian names were often taken from the names
of saints. From such a beautiful name as _St. Hugh_ the Normans had
_Hugon_, and from this we get the rather commonplace names of
_Huggins_, _Hutchins_, _Hutchinson_, and several others. So _St.
Clair_ is still a surname, though often changed into _Sinclair_. St.
Gilbert is responsible for the names _Gibbs_, _Gibbons_, _Gibson_,

Sometimes in Scotland people were given, as Christian names, names
meaning _servant_ of Christ, or some saint. The word for servant was
_giollo_, or _giolla_. It was in this way that names like _Gilchrist_,
_Gilpatrick_, first came to be used. They were at first Christian
names, and then came to be passed on as surnames. So _Gillespie_ means
"servant of the bishop."

Some surnames, though they seem quite English now, show that the first
member of the family to bear the name was looked upon as a foreigner.
Such names are _Newman_, _Newcome_, _Cumming_ (from _cumma_, "a
stranger"). Sometimes the nationality to which the stranger belonged
is shown by the name. The ancestors of the people called _Fleming_,
for instance, must have come from Flanders, as so many did in the
Middle Ages. The _Brabazons_ must have come from Brabant.

Perhaps the most peculiar origin of all belongs to some surnames which
seem to have come from oaths or exclamations. The fairly common names
_Pardoe_, _Pardie_, etc., come from the older name _Pardieu_, or "By
God," a solemn form of oath. We have, too, the English form in the
name _Bigod_. Names like _Rummiley_ come from the old cry of sailors,
_Rummylow_, which they used as sailors use "Heave-ho" now.

But many chapters could be written on the history of names. This
chapter shows only some of the ways in which we got our Christian
names and surnames.



The stories which the names of places can tell us are many more in
number, and even more wonderful, than the stories in the names of
people. Some places have very old names, and others have quite new
ones, and the names have been given for all sorts of different
reasons. If we take the names of the continents, we find that some of
them come from far-off times, and were given by men who knew very
little of what the world was like. The names _Europe_ and _Asia_ were
given long ago by sailors belonging to the Semitic race (the race to
which the Jews belong), who sailed up and down the Ægean Sea, and did
not venture to leave its waters. All the land which lay to the west
they called _Ereb_, which was their word for "sunset," or "west," and
the land to the east they called _Acu_, which meant "sunrise," or
"east;" and later, when men knew more about these lands, these names,
changed a little, remained as the names of the great continents,
Europe and Asia.

_Africa_, too, is an old name, though not so old as these. We think
of Africa now as a "dark continent," the greater part of which has
only lately become known to white men, and with a native population of
negroes. But for hundreds of years the north of Africa was one of the
most civilized parts of the Roman Empire. Before that time part of it
had belonged to the Carthaginians, whom the Romans conquered. _Africa_
was a Carthaginian name, and was first used by the Romans as the name
of the district round Carthage, and in time it came to be the name of
the whole continent.

_America_ got its name in quite a different way. It was not until the
fifteenth century that this great continent was discovered, and then
it took its name, not from the brave Spaniard, Christopher Columbus,
who first sailed across the "Sea of Darkness" to find it, but from
Amerigo Vespucci, the man who first landed on the mainland.

_Australia_ got its name, which means "land of the south," from
Portuguese and Spanish sailors, who reached its western coasts early
in the sixteenth century. They never went inland, or made any
settlements, but in the queer, inaccurate maps which early geographers
made, they put down a _Terra Australis_, or "southern land," and
later, when Englishmen did at last explore and colonize the continent,
they kept this name _Australia_. This Latin name reminds us of the
fact that Latin was in the Middle Ages the language used by all
scholars in their writings, and names on maps were written in Latin
too, and so a great modern continent like Australia came to have an
old Latin name.

There is a great deal of history in the names of countries. Take the
names of the countries of Europe. _England_ is the land of the
_Angles_, and from this we learn that the Angles were the chief people
of all the tribes who came over and settled in Britain after the
Romans left it. They spread farthest over the land, and gave their
name to it; just as the _Franks_, another of these Northern peoples,
gave their name to France, and the _Belgæ_ gave theirs to _Belgium_.
The older name of _Britain_ did not die out, but it was seldom used.
It has really been used much more in modern times than it ever was in
the Middle Ages. It is used especially in poetry or in fine writing,
just as _Briton_ is instead of _Englishman_, as in the line--

     "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves."

The name _Briton_ is now used also to mean Irish, Scotch, and Welsh
men--in fact, any British subject. We also speak of _Great Britain_,
which means England and Scotland. When the Scottish Parliament was
joined to the English in 1702 some name had to be found to describe
the new "nation," and this was how the name _Great Britain_ came into
use, just as the _United Kingdom_ was the name invented to describe
Great Britain and Ireland together when the Irish Parliament too was
joined to the English in 1804.

We see how Gaul and Britain, as France and England were called in
Roman times, had their names changed after the fall of the Roman
Empire; but most of the countries round the Mediterranean Sea kept
their old names, just as they kept for the most part their old
languages. Italy, Greece, and Spain all kept their old names, although
new peoples flocked down into these lands too. But though new peoples
came, in all these lands they learned the ways and languages of the
older inhabitants, instead of changing everything, as the English did
in Britain. And so it was quite natural that they should keep their
own names too.

Most of the other countries in Europe took their names from the people
who settled there. Germany (the Roman _Germania_) was the part of
Europe where most of the tribes of the German race settled down. The
divisions of Germany, like Saxony, Bavaria, Frisia, were the parts of
Germany where the German tribes known as Saxons, Bavarians, and
Frisians settled. The name _Austria_ comes from _Osterreich_, the
German for "eastern kingdom." Holland, on the other hand, takes its
name from the character of the land. It comes from _holt_, meaning
"wood," and _lant_, meaning "land." The little country of Albania is
so called from _Alba_, or "white," because of its snowy mountains.

But perhaps the names of the old towns of the old world tell us the
best stories of all. The greatest city the world has ever seen was
Rome, and many scholars have quarrelled about the meaning of that
great name. It seems most likely that it came from an old word meaning
"river." It would be quite natural for the people of early Rome to
give such a name to their city, for it was a most important fact to
them that they had built their city just where it was on the river

One of the best places on which a town could be built, especially in
early days, was the banks of a river, from which the people could get
water, and by which the refuse and rubbish of the town could be
carried away. Then, again, one of the chief things which helped Rome
to greatness was her position on the river Tiber, far enough from the
sea to be safe from the enemy raiders who infested the seas in those
early days, and yet near enough to send her ships out to trade with
other lands. Thus it was, probably, that a simple word meaning "river"
came to be used as the name of the world's greatest city.

Others among the great cities of the ancient world were founded in a
quite different way. The great conqueror, Alexander the Great, founded
cities in every land he conquered, and their names remain even now to
keep his memory alive. The city of _Alexandria_, on the north coast of
Africa, was, of course, called after Alexander himself, and became
after his death more civilized and important than any of the Greek
cities which Alexander admired so much, and which he tried to imitate
everywhere. Now Alexandria is no longer a centre of learning, but a
fairly busy port. Only its name recalls the time when it helped in the
great work for which Alexander built it--to spread Greek learning and
Greek civilization over Europe and Asia.

Another city which Alexander founded, but which afterwards fell into
decay, was _Bucephalia_, which the great conqueror set up in the north
of India when he made his wonderful march across the mountains into
that continent. It was called after "_Bucephalus_," the favourite
horse of Alexander, which had been wounded, and died after the battle.
The town was built over the place where the horse was buried, and
though its story is not so interesting as that of Alexandria, as the
town so soon fell into decay, still it is worth remembering.

Another of the world's ancient and greatest cities, Constantinople,
also took its name from a great ruler. In the days when the Roman
Empire was beginning to decay, and new nations from the north began to
pour into her lands, the emperor, Constantine the Great, the ruler who
made Christianity the religion of the empire, chose a new capital
instead of Rome. He loved Eastern magnificence and Eastern ways, and
he chose for his new capital the old Greek colony of Byzantium, the
beautiful city on the Golden Horn, which Constantine soon made into a
new Rome, with churches and theatres and baths, like the old Rome. The
new Rome was given a new name. Constantine had turned Byzantium into
a new city, and it has ever since been known as _Constantinople_, or
the "city of Constantine."

We can nearly always tell from the names of places something of their
history. If we think of the names of some of our English towns, we
notice that many of them end in the same way. There are several whose
names begin or end in _don_, like _London_ itself. Many others end in
_caster_ or _chester_, _ham_, _by_, _borough_ or _burgh_.

We may be sure that most of the places whose names begin or end in
_don_ were already important places in the time before the Britons
were conquered by the Romans. The Britons were divided into tribes,
and lived in villages scattered over the land; but each tribe had its
little fortress or stronghold, the "dun," as it was called, with walls
and ditches round it, in which all the people of the tribe could take
shelter if attacked by a strong enemy. And so the name of London takes
us back to the time when this greatest city of the modern world,
spreading into four counties, and as big as a county itself, with its
marvellous buildings, old and new, and its immense traffic, was but a
British fort into which scantily-clothed people fled from their huts
at the approach of an enemy.

But the British showed themselves wise enough in their choice of
places to build their _duns_, which, as in the case of London, often
became centres of new towns, which grew larger and larger through
Roman times, and on into the Middle Ages and modern times.

The great French fortress town of Verdun, which everybody has heard of
because of its wonderful resistance to the German attacks in 1916, is
also an old Celtic town with this Celtic ending to its name. It was
already an important town when the Romans conquered Gaul, and it has
played a notable part in history ever since. Its full name means "the
fort on the water," just as _Dundee_ (from _Dun-tatha_) probably meant
"the fort on the Tay."

By merely looking at a map of England, any one who knows anything of
the Latin language can pick out many names which come from that
language, and which must have been given in the days when the Romans
had conquered Britain. The ending _caster_ of so many names in the
north of England, and _chester_ in the Midlands, _xeter_ in the west
of England, and _caer_ in Wales, all come from the same Latin word,
_castrum_, which means a military camp or fortified place. So that we
might guess, if we did not know, that at Lancaster, Doncaster,
Manchester, Winchester, Exeter, and at the old capital of the famous
King Arthur, Caerleon, there were some of those Roman camps which were
dotted over England in the days when the Romans ruled the land.

Here the Roman officers lived with their wives and families, and the
Roman soldiers too, and here they built churches and theatres and
baths, such as they were used to in their cities at home in Italy.
Here, too, it was that many of the British nobles learned Roman ways
of living and thinking; and from here the Roman priests and monks went
out to teach the Britons that the religion of the Druids was false,
and instruct them in the Christian religion.

Another common Latin ending or beginning to the names of places was
_strat_, _stret_, or _street_, and wherever we find this we may know
that through these places ran some of the _viæ stratæ_, or great Roman
roads which the Romans built in all the provinces of their great
empire. There are many remains of these Roman roads still to be seen
up and down England; but even where no trace remains, the direction of
some, at least, of the great roads could be found from the names of
the towns which were dotted along them. Among these towns are
_Stratford_ in Warwickshire, _Chester-le-Street_ in Durham,
_Streatham_, etc.

Then, again, some of the towns with _port_ and _lynne_ as part of
their names show us where the Romans had their ports and trading

It is interesting to see the different names which the English gave to
the villages in which they dwelt when the Romans had left Britain, and
these new tribes had won it for themselves. Nearly all towns ending in
_ham_ and _ford_, and _burgh_ or _borough_, date from the first few
hundred years after the English won Britain. _Ham_ and _ford_ merely
meant "home," or "village." Thus _Buckingham_ was the home of the
Bockings, a village in which several families all related to each
other, and bearing this name, lived. Of course the name did not change
when later the village grew into a town. Buckingham is a very
different place now from the little village in which the Bockings
settled, each household having its house and yard, but dividing the
common meadow and pasture land out between them each year.

_Wallingford_ was the home of the Wallings. Places whose names ended
in _ford_ were generally situated where a ford, or means of crossing a
river or stream, had to be made. Oxford was in Old English _Oxenford_,
or "ford of the oxen."

Towns whose names end in _borough_ are often very old, but not so old
as some of those ending in _ham_ and _ford_. There were _burhs_ in the
first days of the English Conquest, but generally they were only
single fortified houses and not villages. We first hear of the more
important _burghs_ or _boroughs_ in the last hundred years or so
before the Norman Conquest. _Edinburgh_, which was at first an English
town, is a very early example. Its name means "Edwin's borough or
town," and it was so called because it was founded by Edwin, who was
king of England from 617 to 633.

The special point about boroughs was that they were really free towns.
They had courts of justice of their own, and were free from the
Hundred courts, the next court above them being the Shire court, ruled
over by the sheriff. So we know that most of the towns whose names end
in _burgh_ or _borough_ had for their early citizens men who loved
freedom, and worked hard to win their own courts of justice.

There are other endings to the names of towns which go back to the
days before the Norman Conquest, but which are not really English. If
a child were told to pick out on the map of England all the places
whose names end in _by_ or _thwaite_, he or she would find that most
of them are in the eastern part of England. The reason for this might
be guessed, perhaps, by a very thoughtful child. Both _by_ and
_thwaite_ are Danish words, and they are found in the eastern parts of
England, because it was in those parts that the Danes settled down
when the great King Alfred forced them to make peace in the Treaty of
Wallingford. After this, of course, the Danes lived in England for
many years, settling down, and becoming part of the English people.
Naturally they gave their own names to many villages and towns, and
many of these remain to this day to remind us of this fierce race
which helped to build up the English nation.

The Normans did not make many changes in the names of places when they
won England, and most of our place-names come down to us from Roman
and old English times. The places have changed, but the names have
not. But though towns and counties have had their names from those
times, it is to be noticed that the names of our rivers and hills come
down to us from Celtic times. To the Britons, living a more or less
wild life, these things were of the greatest importance. There are
several rivers in England with the name of _Avon_, and this is an old
British name. The rivers _Usk_, _Esk_, and _Ouse_ were all christened
by the Britons, and all these names come from a British word meaning
"water." Curiously enough, the name _whisky_ comes from the same word.
From all these different ways in which places have got their names we
get glimpses of past history, and history helps us to understand the
stories that these old names tell us.



We have seen in how many different ways many of the old places of this
world got their names. Some names go so far back that no one knows
what is their meaning, or how they first came to be used. But we know
that a great part of the world has only been discovered since the
fifteenth century, and that a great part of what was already known has
only been colonized in modern times.

With the discovery of the New World and the colonization of the Dark
Continent and other far-off lands, a great many new names were
invented. We could almost write a history of North or South America
from an explanation of their place-names.

In learning the geography of South America we notice the beautiful
Spanish names of most of the places. The reason for this is that it
was the Spaniards who colonized South America in the sixteenth
century. Very little of this continent now belongs to Spain, but in
those days Spain was the greatest country in Europe. The proud and
brave Spanish adventurers were in those days sailing over the seas
and founding colonies, just as the English sailors of Queen Elizabeth
soon began to do in North America.

Let us look at some of these names--_Los Angelos_ ("The Angels"),
_Santa Cruz_ ("The Holy Cross"), _Santiago_ ("St. James"), all names
of saints and holy things. Any one who knew no history at all might
guess, from the number of places with Spanish names spread over South
America, that it was the Spaniards who colonized this land. He would
also guess that the Spaniards in those days must have been a very
great nation indeed. And he would be right.

He would guess, too, that the Spaniards had clung passionately to the
Catholic religion. Here, again, he would be right. Any great
enthusiasm will make a nation great, and the Spaniards in the
sixteenth century were filled with a great love for the old Church
against which the new Protestantism was fighting. The Pope looked upon
Spain as the great bulwark of Catholicism. The new religious feeling,
which had swept over Europe, and which had made the Protestants ready
to suffer and die for their new-found faith, took the form in Spain of
this great love for the old religion. The nation seemed inspired. It
is when these things happen that a people turns to great enterprises
and adventure. The Spaniards of the sixteenth century regarded
themselves, and were almost regarded by the other nations, as
unconquerable. The great aim of Elizabethan Englishmen was to "break
the power of Spain," and this they did at last when they scattered
the "Invincible Armada" in 1588. But before this Spain had done great

The Portuguese had been the first great adventurers, but they were
soon left far behind by the Spanish sailors, who explored almost every
part of South America, settling there, and sending home great
shiploads of gold to make Spain rich. And wherever they explored and
settled they spread about these beautiful names to honour the saints
and holy things which their religion told them to love and honour.

It was the great discoverer Christopher Columbus who first gave one of
these beautiful names to a place in South America. He had already
discovered North America, and made a second voyage there, when he
determined to explore the land south of the West Indies. He sailed
south through the tropical seas while the heat melted the tar of the
rigging. But Columbus never noticed danger and discomfort. He had made
a vow to call the first land he saw after the Holy Trinity, and when
at last he caught sight of three peaks jutting up from an island he
gave the island the name of _La Trinidad_, and "Trinidad" it remains
to this day, though it now belongs to the British. As he sailed south
Columbus caught sight of what was really the mainland of South
America, but he thought it was another island, and called it _Isla
Santa_, or "Holy Island."

It might seem curious that as Columbus had discovered both North and
South America, the continent was given the name of another man. As we
have seen, its name was taken from that of another explorer, Amerigo
Vespucci. The reason for this was that Columbus never really knew that
he had discovered a "New World." He believed that he had come by
another way to the eastern coast of Asia or Africa. The islands which
he first discovered were for this reason called the _Indies_, and the
_West Indies_ they remain to this day.

It was Amerigo Vespucci who first announced to the world, in a book
which he published in 1507 (three years after Christopher Columbus had
died in loneliness and poverty), that the new lands were indeed a
great new continent, and not Asia or Africa at all. People later on
said that Amerigo Vespucci had discovered a new continent, and that it
ought to be called by his name. This is how the name _America_ came
into use; but of course the work of Vespucci was not to be compared
with that of the great adventurer who first sailed across the "Sea of
Darkness," and was the real discoverer of the New World.

Though it was the Spaniards who discovered North America, it was the
English who chiefly colonized it.

It is interesting to notice the names which the early English
colonists scattered over the northern continent. We might gather from
them that, just as the love of their Church was the great passion of
the sixteenth-century Spaniards, so the love of their country was the
ruling passion of the great English adventurers. (Of course the
Spaniards had shown their love for their old country in some of the
names they gave, as when Columbus called one place _Isabella_, in
honour of the noble Spanish queen who had helped and encouraged him
when other rulers of European countries had refused to listen to what
they thought were the ravings of a madman.)

The English in Reformation days had a very different idea of religion
from the Spanish. Naturally they did not sprinkle the names of saints
over the new lands. But the English of Elizabeth's day were filled
with a great new love for England. The greatest of all the Elizabethan
adventurers, Sir Francis Drake, when in his voyage round the world he
put into a harbour which is now known as San Francisco, set up "a
plate of brass fast nailed to a great and firm post, whereon is
engraved Her Grace's name, and the day and the year of our arrival
there." The Indian king of these parts had freely owned himself
subject to the English, taking the crown from his own head and putting
it on Drake's head. Sir Francis called his land _New Albion_, using
the old poetic name for England.

But the colonization of North America was not successfully begun until
after the death of Elizabeth, though one or two attempts at founding
colonies, or "plantations," as they were then called, were made in
her time. Sir Walter Raleigh tried to set up one colony in North
America, and called it _Virginia_, after the virgin queen whom all
Englishmen delighted to honour. Virginia did not prosper, and
Raleigh's colony broke up; but later another and successful attempt at
colonizing it was made, and the same name kept. Virginia--"Earth's
only Paradise," as the poet Drayton called it--was the first English
colony successfully settled in North America. This was in the year
1607, when two hundred and forty-three settlers landed, and made the
first settlement at a point which they called _Jamestown_, in honour
of the new English king, James I.

The first settlers in Virginia were men whose chief aim was to become
rich, but it was not long before a new kind of settler began to seek
refuge in the lands north of Virginia, to which the great colonizer,
Captain John Smith, had by this time given the name of _New England_.
It was in 1620 that the "Pilgrim Fathers," because they were not free
to worship God as they thought right at home, sailed from Southampton
in the little _Mayflower_, and landed far to the north of Virginia,
and made a settlement at a place which Smith had already called

Before long new colonies began to spring up all over New England; and
though we find some new names, like the Indian name of the great
colony _Massachusetts_, we may read the story of the great love which
the colonists felt for the old towns of the mother-country in the way
they gave their names to the new settlements.

A curious thing is that many of these new towns, christened after
little old towns at home, became later very important and prosperous
places, while the places after which they were called are sometimes
almost forgotten. Many people to whom the name of the great American
city of Boston is familiar do not know that there still stands on the
coast of Lincolnshire the sleepy little town of Boston, from which it
took its name.

Boston is the chief town of Massachusetts; but the first capital was
_Charlestown_, called after King Charles I., who had by this time
succeeded his father, James I. The place on which Charlestown was
built, on the north bank of the Charles River, was, however, found to
be unhealthy. The settlers, therefore, deserted it, and Boston was
built on the south bank.

It was not long before the Massachusetts settlers built a college at a
place near Boston which had been called _Cambridge_. This is a case in
which the old town at home remained, of course, much more important
than its godchild. If a person speaks of Cambridge, one's mind
immediately flies to the English university city on the banks of the
river Cam. Still the college built at the American Cambridge, and
called "Harvard College," after John Harvard, one of the early
settlers, who gave a great deal of money towards its building, is
famous now throughout the world.

It was natural and suitable that the early settlers should use the old
English names to show their love for the mother-country; but it was
not such a wise thing to choose the names of the great historic towns
of Europe, and give them to the new settlements. To give the almost
sacred name of _Rome_ to a modern American town seems almost
ridiculous. Certainly one would have always to be very careful to add
"Georgia, U.S.A." in addressing letters there. The United States has
several of these towns bearing old historic names. _Paris_ as the name
of an American town seems almost as unsuitable as Rome.

But this mistake was not made by the early colonists. If we think of
the names of the colonies which stretched along the east of North
America, we find nearly always that the names are chosen to do honour
to the English king or queen, or to keep the memory fresh of some
beloved spot in the old country.

In 1632 the Catholic Lord Baltimore founded a new colony, the only one
where the Catholic religion was tolerated, and called it _Maryland_,
in honour of Charles I.'s queen, Henrietta Maria. Just after the
Restoration of Charles II. in 1660, when the country was full of
loyalty, a new colony, _Carolina_, was founded, taking its name from
_Carolus_, the Latin for "Charles." Afterwards this colony was divided
into two, and became North and South Carolina.

To the north of Maryland lay the _New Netherlands_, for Holland had
also colonized here. In the seventeenth century this little nation was
for a time equal to the greatest nations in Europe. The Dutch had very
soon followed the example of that other little nation Portugal, which,
directed by the famous Prince Henry of Portugal, had been the first of
all the European nations to explore far-off lands. Holland was as
important on the seas as Spain or England; but this could not last
long. The Dutch and the English fought several campaigns, and in the
end the Dutch were beaten.

In 1667 the New Netherlands were yielded up to England. The name of
the colony was changed to _New York_, and its capital, New Amsterdam,
was given the same name. This was in honour of the sailor prince,
James, Duke of York, afterwards the unhappy King James II. Another of
the Stuarts who gave his name to a district of North America was
Prince Rupert, the nephew of Charles I., who fought so hard for the
king against Cromwell. In 1670 the land round Hudson Bay was given the
name of _Rupertsland_.

Sometimes, but not often, the new colonies were given the names of
their founders. William Penn, who founded the Quaker colony of
_Pennsylvania_, gave it this name in honour of his father, Admiral
Penn. _Sylvania_ means "land of woods," and comes from the Latin
_sylvanus_, or "woody."

But it is not only in America that the place-names tell us the
stories of heroism and romance. All over the world, from the icy lands
round the Poles to the tropical districts of Africa, India, and
Australia, these stories can be read. The spirit in which the early
Portuguese adventurers sailed along the coast of Africa is shown in
the name they gave to what we now know as the _Cape of Good Hope_.
Bartholomew Diaz called it the _Cape of Storms_, for he had discovered
it only after terrible battlings with the waves; but when he sailed
home to tell his news the king of Portugal said that this was not a
good name, but it should instead be called the _Cape of Good Hope_,
for past it lay the sea passage to India which men had been seeking
for years. And so the _Cape of Good Hope_ it remains to this day.

After this it was not long before the Portuguese explored the south
and east coasts of Africa and the west coast of India to the very
south, where they took the _Spice Islands_ for their own. From these
the Portuguese brought home great quantities of spices, which they
sold at high prices in Europe.

It was the great explorer Ferdinand Magellan who first sailed round
the world, being sure, as he said, that he could reach the Spice
Islands by sailing west. And so he started on this expedition, sailing
through the straits which have ever since been known as the _Magellan
Straits_ to the south of South America, into the Pacific, or
"Peaceful," Ocean, and then ever west, until he came round by the
east to Spain again, after three years of great hardship and wonderful

The adventures of the early explorers most often took the form of
seeking a new and shorter passage from one ocean to another, and so
many straits bear the names of the explorers. The Elizabethan
explorer, Martin Frobisher, sought for a "North-west Passage" from the
Atlantic to the Pacific, and for a time it was thought that he had
found it in the very north of North America. But it was afterwards
found that the "passage," which had already been given the name of
_Frobisher's Straits_, was really only an inlet, and afterwards it
became known as _Lumley's Inlet_.

Frobisher never discovered a North-west Passage, for the ships of
those days were not fitted out in a way to enable the sailors to bear
the icy cold of these northern regions. Many brave explorers tried
later to discover it. Three times John Davis made a voyage for this
purpose but never succeeded, though _Davis Strait_ commemorates his
heroic attempts. Hudson and Baffin explored in these waters, as the
names _Hudson Bay_ and _Baffin Bay_ remind us.

It was nearly two hundred years later that Sir John Franklin sailed
with an expedition in two boats, the _Erebus_ and _Terror_, determined
to find the passage. He found it, but died in the attempt; but,
strangely enough, his name was not given to any strait, though later
it was given to all the islands of the Arctic Archipelago.

The winning of India by the British in the eighteenth century did not
give us many new English names. India was not, like the greater part
of America, a wild country inhabited by savage peoples. It had an
older civilization than the greater part of Europe, and the only
reason that it was weak enough to be conquered was that the many races
who lived there could not agree among themselves. Most of the
place-names of India are native names given by natives, for centuries
before France and England began to struggle for its possession in the
eighteenth century India had passed through a long and varied history.

When we remember that the natives of India have no name to describe
the whole continent, it helps us to understand that India is in no way
a single country. The British Government have given the continent the
name _India_, taking it from the great river Indus, which itself takes
its name from an old word, _sindhu_, meaning "river."

In the days of the early explorers, after the islands discovered by
Columbus were called the _West Indies_, some people began to call the
Indian continent the _East Indies_, to distinguish it; and some of the
papers about India drawn up for the information of Parliament about
Indian affairs still use this name, but it is not a familiar use to
most people.

The mistake which Columbus and the early explorers made in thinking
America was India has caused a good deal of confusion. The natives of
North America were called Indians, and it was only long afterwards, in
fact quite lately, that people began to write and speak of the natives
of India as _Indians_. When it was printed in the newspapers that
Indians were fighting for the British Empire with the armies in
France, the use of the word _Indian_ seemed wrong to a great many
people; but it is now becoming so common that it will probably soon
seem quite right. When it is used with the old meaning we shall have
to say the "Indians of North America." Some people use the word
_Hindu_ to describe the natives of India; but this is not correct, as
only _some_ of the natives of India are Hindus, just as the name
_Hindustan_ (a Persian name meaning "land of the Hindus," as
_Afghanistan_ means "land of the Afghans"), which some old writers on
geography used for India, is really the name of one part of the land
round the river Ganges, where the language known as _Hindi_ is spoken.

The place-names of India given by natives of the many different races
which have lived in the land could fill a book with their stories
alone. We can only mention a few. The name of the great range of
mountains which runs across the north of the continent, the
_Himalayas_, means in Sanskrit, the oldest language used in India, the
"home of snow." _Bombay_ takes its name from _Mumba_, the name of a
goddess of an early tribe who occupied the district round Bombay.
_Calcutta_, which stretches over ground where there were formerly
several villages, takes its name from one of these. Its old form was
_Kalikuti_, which means the "ghauts," or passes, leading to the temple
of the goddess Kali.

In Australia, where a beginning of colonization was made through the
discoveries of Captain Cook towards the end of the eighteenth century,
the place-names were sometimes given from places at home, sometimes
after persons, but they have hardly the same romance as the early
American names.

_Botany Bay_ was the name chosen by Captain Cook in a moment of
enthusiasm for an inlet of New South Wales. He gave it this name
because of the great number of plants and flowers which grow there.

In Africa a good deal of history can be learned from the place-names.
Although the north of Africa had for many hundreds of years had its
part in the civilization of the countries round the Mediterranean Sea,
the greater part of Africa had remained an unexplored region--the
"Dark Continent," as it was called. In the fifteenth century the
Portuguese sailors crept along the western coast, and afterwards along
the south, as we have seen, past the Cape of Good Hope. But the
interior of the continent remained for long an unexplored region.

The Dutch had, very soon after the discovery of the Cape, made a
settlement there, which was known as _Cape Colony_. This was
afterwards won by the English; but many Dutchmen still stayed there,
and though, since the Boer War, when the Boers, or Dutch, in South
Africa tried to win their independence, the whole of South Africa
belongs to the British Empire, still there are naturally many Dutch
names given by the early Dutch settlers. Some of these became very
well known to English people in the Boer War. _Bloemfontein_ is one of
these names, coming from the Dutch word for "spring" (_fontein_), and
that of Jan Bloem, one of the farmers who first settled there. Another
well-known place in the Transvaal, _Pietermaritzburg_, took its name
from the two leaders who led the Boers out of Cape Colony when they
felt that the English were becoming too strong there. These leaders
were Pieter Retief and Georit Maritz. This movement of the Boers into
the Transvaal was called the "Great Trek," _trek_ being a Dutch word
for a journey or migration of this sort. Since the days of the Boer
War this word has been regularly used in English with this same
meaning. Like the English settlers in America, the Dutch settlers in
South Africa sometimes gave the names of places in Holland to their
new settlements. _Utrecht_ is an example of this.

Up to the very end of the nineteenth century no European country
besides England had any great possessions in Africa. The Portuguese
still held the coast lands between Zululand (so called from the
fierce black natives who lived there) and Mozambique. Egypt had come
practically under British rule soon after the days of Napoleon, and in
the middle of the nineteenth century the great explorers Livingstone
and Stanley had explored the lands along the Zambesi River and a great
part of Central Africa. Stanley went right across the centre of the
continent, and discovered the lake _Albert Edward Nyanza_. _Nyanza_ is
the African word for "lake," and the name Albert Edward was given in
honour of the Prince Consort. _Victoria Nyanza_, so called after Queen
Victoria, had been discovered some years before. It was all these
discoveries which led to the colonization of Africa by the nations of

In 1884 the great German statesman, Prince Bismarck, set up the German
flag in Damaraland, the coast district to the north of the Orange
River; and soon after a German colony was set up in the lands between
the Portuguese settlements and the Equator. This was simply called
German East Africa. At the same time the other nations of Europe
suddenly realized that if they meant to have part of Africa they must
join in the scramble at once. There were soon a British East Africa, a
Portuguese East Africa, a Portuguese West Africa, a German South-west
Africa, and so on. All these are names which might have been given in
a hurry, and in them we seem to read the haste of the European
nations to seize on the only lands in the world which were still
available. They are very different from the descriptive names which
the early Portuguese adventurers had strewn along the coast, like
_Sierra Leone_, or "the lion mountain;" _Cape Verde_, or "the green
cape," so called from its green grass.

Still, romance was not dead even yet. There is one district of South
Africa which takes its name in the old way from that of a person.
_Rhodesia_, the name given to Mashonaland and Matabeleland, was so
called after Mr. Cecil Rhodes, a young British emigrant, who went out
from England in very weak health and became perfectly strong, at the
same time winning a fortune for himself in the diamond fields of
Kimberley. He devoted himself heart and soul to the strengthening of
British power in South Africa, and it is fitting that this province
should by its name keep his memory fresh.

The story of the struggle in South Africa between Boer and Briton can
be partly read in its place-names; and the story of the struggle
between old and new settlers in Canada can be similarly read in the
place-names of that land.

The first settlers in Canada were the French, and the descendants of
these first settlers form a large proportion of the Canadian
population. Many places in Canada still have, of course, the names
which the first French settlers gave them.

The Italian, John Cabot, had sailed to Canada a few years after
Columbus discovered America, sent by the English king, Henry VII., but
no settlements were made. Thirty-seven years later the French sailor,
Jacques Cartier, was sent by the French king, Francis I., to explore
there. Cartier sailed up the Gulf of St. Lawrence as far as the spot
where Montreal now stands. The name was given by Cartier, and means
"royal mount." It was Cartier, too, who gave Canada its name; but he
thought that this was already the Indian name for the land. A story is
told that some Red Indians were trying to talk to him and making
signs, and they pointed to some houses, saying, "Cannata." Cartier
thought they meant that this was the name of the country, but he was
mistaken. They were, perhaps, pointing out their village, for
_cannata_ is the Indian name for "village."

Cartier, like Cabot, sailed away again, and the first real founder of
a settlement in Canada was the Frenchman, Samuel de Champlain, who
made friends with the Indians, and explored the upper parts of the
river Lawrence, and gave his name to the beautiful _Lake Champlain_,
which he discovered. It was he who founded _Quebec_, giving it this
Breton name. Sailors from Brittany had ventured as far as the coast of
Canada in the time of Columbus, and had given its name to _Cape
Breton_. And so French names spread through Canada. Later, in one of
the wars of the eighteenth century, England won Canada from France;
but these French names still remain to tell the tale of French
adventure and heroism in that land.

We have seen many names in new lands, some of them given by people
from the Old World who settled in these lands. In the great European
War we have seen people from these new lands coming back to fight in
some of the most ancient countries of the Old World. The splendid
Australian troops who fought in Gallipoli sprinkled many new names
over the land they won and lost. One, at least, will always remain on
the maps. _Anzac_, where the Colonials made their historic landing,
will never be forgotten. It was a new name, made up of the initial
letters of the words "Australian and New Zealand Army Corps," and will
remain for ever one of the most honoured names invented in the
twentieth century.

Children who like history can read whole chapters in the place-names
of the old world and the new.



It is not only in the names of continents, countries, and towns that
stories of the past can be read. The names of the old streets and
buildings (or even of new streets which have kept their old names) in
our old towns are full of stories. Especially is this true about
London, the centre of the British Empire, and almost the centre of the
world's history. It will be interesting not only to little Londoners,
but to other children as well, to examine some of the old London
names, and see what stories they can tell.

Naturally the most interesting names of all are to be found in what we
now call "the City," meaning the centre of London, which was at one
time all the London there was.

We have seen that London was in the time of the Britons just a fort,
and that it became important in Roman times, and a town grew up around
it. But this town in the Middle Ages, and even so late as the
eighteenth century, was not at all like the London we know to-day.
London now is really a county, and stretches away far into four
counties; but mediæval London was like a small country town, though a
very important and gay and busy town, because it was the capital.

Many of the names in the City take us back to the very earliest days
of the capital. This part of London stands on slightly rising ground,
and near the river Thames, just the sort of ground which early people
would choose upon which to build a fortress or a village. The names of
two of the chief City streets, the Strand and Fleet Street, help to
show us something of what London was like in its earliest days. A few
years ago, in a famous case in a court of law, one of the lawyers
asked a witness what he was doing in the Strand at a certain time. The
witness, a witty Irishman, answered with a solemn face, "Picking
seaweed." Everybody laughed, because the idea of picking seaweed in
the very centre of London was so funny. But a strand _is_ a shore, and
when the name was given to the London _Strand_ it was not a paved
street at all, but the muddy shore of the river Thames.

Then _Fleet Street_ marks the path by which the little river Fleet ran
into the Thames. The river had several tributaries, which were covered
over in this way, and several of them are used as sewers to carry away
the sewage of the city. There is a _Fleet Street_, too, in Hampstead,
in the north-west of London, and this marks the beginning of the
course of the same little river Fleet which got its water from the
high ground of Hampstead.

This river has given us still another famous London name. It flowed
past what is now called King's Cross, and here its banks were so steep
that it was called _Hollow_, or _Hole-bourne_, and from this we get
the name _Holborn_.

The City being the centre of London had a certain amount of trading
and bargaining from the earliest times. In those times there were no
such things as shops. People bought and sold in markets, and the name
of the busy City street, _Cheapside_, reminds us of this. It was
called in early times the _Chepe_, and took its name from the Old
English word _ceap_, "a bargain."

At the end of Cheapside runs the street called _Poultry_, and this, so
an old chronicler tells us, has its name from the fact that a fowl or
poultry market was regularly held there up to the sixteenth century.
The name of another famous City street, _Cornhill_, tells us that a
corn market used to be held there. Another name, _Gracechurch Street_,
reminds us of an old grass market. It took its name from an old
church, St. Benet Grasschurch, which was probably so called because
the grass market was held under its walls.

_Smithfield_ is the great London meat market now; but its name means
"smooth field," and in the Middle Ages it was used as a cattle and hay
market, and on days which were not market days games and tournaments
took place there. Later its name became famous in English history for
the "fires of Smithfield," when men and women were burned to death
there for refusing to accept the state religion.

Many London names come from churches and buildings which no longer
exist. The names help us to picture a London very different from the
London of to-day. One of the busiest streets in that part of the City
round Fleet Street where editors and journalists, and printers and
messengers are working day and night to produce the newspapers which
carry the news of the day far and wide over England, is _Blackfriars_.
This is a very different place from the spot where the Dominicans, or
"Black Friars," built their priory in the thirteenth century.

In those days the friars chose the busiest parts of the little English
towns to build their houses in, so that they could preach and help the
people. They thought that the earlier monks had chosen places for
their monasteries too far from the people. There were grey friars and
white friars, Austin friars and crutched friars, all of whose names
remain in the London of to-day.

There were many monasteries and convents in the larger London which
soon grew up round the City, and in the City itself we have a street
whose name keeps the memory of one convent of nuns. The street called
the _Minories_ marks the place where a convent of nuns of St. Clare
was founded in the thirteenth century. The Latin name for these nuns
is _Sorores Minores_, or "Lesser Sisters," just as the Franciscans, or
grey friars, were _Fratres Minores_, or "Lesser Brethren." And so from
the Latin _minores_ we get the name Minories as the name of a London
street, standing where this convent once stood.

The name of the street _London Wall_ reminds us of the time when
London was a walled city with its gates, which were closed at night
and opened every morning. Many streets keep the names of the old
gates, like _Ludgate Hill_, _Aldersgate_, _Bishopsgate_.

The great _Tower of London_ still stands to show us how London was
defended in the old feudal days; but _Tower Bridge_, the bridge which
crosses the river at that point, is a modern bridge, built in 1894.
The name _Cripplegate_ still remains, and the story it has to tell us
is that in the Middle Ages there stood outside the city walls beyond
this gate the hospital of St. Giles-in-the-Fields. It was a hospital
for lepers; but St. Giles is the patron saint of cripples, and so this
gate of the city got the name of Cripplegate, because it was the
nearest to the church of the patron saint of cripples.

This church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields no longer remains; but we have
_St. Martin's-in-the-Fields_, to remind us of the difference between
Trafalgar Square to-day and its condition not quite two hundred years
ago, when this church was built.

It must be remembered that even at the very end of the eighteenth
century London was just a tiny town lying along the river. At that
time many of the nobles and rich merchants were building their
mansions in what is now the West Central district of London. The north
side of Queen Square, Bloomsbury, was left open, so that the people
who lived there could enjoy the view of the Highgate and Hampstead
hills, to which the open country stretched. Even now this end of Queen
Square is closed only by a railing, but a great mass of streets and
houses stretches far beyond Hampstead and Highgate now.

_Trafalgar Square_ itself got its name in honour of Nelson, the hero
of the great victory of Trafalgar. The great column with the statue of
Nelson stands in the square.

This brings us to one of the most interesting of old London names. On
one side of the square stands _Charing Cross_, the busiest spot in
London. At this point there once stood the last of the nine beautiful
crosses which King Edward III. set up at the places where the coffin
of his wife, Eleanor, was set to rest in the long journey from
Lincolnshire, where she died, to her grave in Westminster Abbey; and
so it got its name. A fine modern cross has been set up in memory of
Edward's cross, which has long since disappeared.

The district of Westminster takes its name, of course, from the abbey;
and the name _Broad Sanctuary_ remains to remind us of the sanctuary
in which, as in many churches of the Middle Ages, people could take
refuge even from the Law. _Covent Garden_ took its name from a convent
garden belonging to the abbey.

One of the oldest parts of London is _Charterhouse Square_, where,
until a year or two ago, there stood the famous boys' school of this
name. The school took its name from the old monastery of the
Charterhouse, which King Henry VIII. brought to an end because the
monks would not own that he was head of the Church instead of the
Pope. They suffered a dreadful death, being hanged, drawn, and
quartered as traitors. The monastery was taken, like so many others,
by the king, and afterwards became a school. But the school was
removed in 1872 to an airier district at Godalming. Part of the old
building is still used as a boys' day school.

The word _Charterhouse_ was the English name for a house of
Carthusians, a very strict order of monks, whose first house was the
Grande Chartreuse in France.

Not far from the Charterhouse is _Ely Place_, with the beautiful old
church of St. Ethelreda. This was, in the Middle Ages, a chapel used
by the Bishop of Ely when he came to London, and that is how Ely
Place, still one of the quietest and quaintest spots in London, got
its name.

People who go along Ludgate Hill to St. Paul's must have noticed many
curious names. Perhaps the quaintest of all is _Paternoster Row_.
This street, which takes its name from the Latin name of the "Our
Father," or Lord's Prayer, got its name from the fact that in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries many sellers of prayer-books and
texts collected at this spot, on account of it being near the great
church of St. Paul's. Paternoster Row is still full of booksellers.

_Ave Maria Lane_ and _Amen Corner_, just near, got their names in
imitation of Paternoster Row, the _Ave Maria_, or "Hail, Mary!" being
the words used by the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin at the
Annunciation, and _Amen_ being, of course, the ending to the
_paternoster_, as to most prayers.

Not far from St. Paul's is the Church of _St. Mary-le-Bow_. It used to
be said that the true Londoner had to be born within the sound of
Bow-bells, and the old story tells us that it was these bells which
Dick Whittington heard telling him to turn back when he had lost hope
of making his fortune, and was leaving London for the country again.
The present Church of St. Mary-le-Bow was built by Sir Christopher
Wren, the great seventeenth-century architect, who built St. Paul's
and several other of the most beautiful London churches after they had
been destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. But underneath the present
Church of St. Mary-le-Bow is the crypt, which was not destroyed in the
fire. This crypt was built, like the former church, in Norman times,
and the church took its name of _bow_ from the arches upon which it
was built in the Norman way, it being the first church in London to be
built in this way. The church is generally called "Bow Church."

Another famous old London church, the _Temple Church_, which is now
used as the chapel of the lawyers at the Inns of Court, got its name
from the fact that it belonged to and was built by the Knights
Templars in the twelfth century. These knights were one of those
peculiar religious orders which joined the life of a soldier to that
of a monk, and played a great part in the Crusades. King Edward III.
brought the order to an end, and took their property; but the Temple
Church, with its tombs and figures of armoured knights in brass,
remains to keep their memory fresh.

We may mention two other names of old London streets which take us
back to the Middle Ages. In the City we have the street called _Old
Jewry_, and this reminds us of the time when in all the more important
towns of England in the early Middle Ages a part was put aside for the
Jews. This was called the _Ghetto_. The Jews were much disliked in the
Middle Ages because of the treatment of Our Lord by their forefathers;
but the kings often protected them because, in spite of everything,
the Jews grew rich, and the kings were able to borrow money of them.
In 1290, however, Edward I. banished all the Jews from England, and
they did not return until the days of Cromwell. But the name of the
Old Jewry reminds us of the ghetto which was an important part of old

Another famous City street, _Lombard Street_, the street of bankers,
got its name from the Italian merchants from Lombardy who set up their
business there, and who became the bankers and money-lenders when
there were no longer any Jews to lend money to the English king and

As time went on London began to grow in a way which seemed alarming to
the people of the seventeenth century, though even then it was but a
tiny town in comparison with the London of to-day. The fashionable
people and courtiers began to build houses in the western "suburbs,"
as they were then called, though now they are looked upon as very
central districts. It was chiefly in the seventeenth century that what
we now know as the _West End_ became a residential quarter. Some parts
of the West End are, of course, still the most fashionable parts of
London; but some, like Covent Garden and Lincoln's Inn Fields, have
been given over to business.

Most of the best-known names in the West End date from the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries. The most fashionable street of all,
_Piccadilly_, probably got its name from the very fashionable collar
called a _pickadil_ (from the Spanish word _picca_, "a spear") which
the fine gentlemen wore as they swaggered through the West End in the
early seventeenth century. _Pall Mall_ and the _Mall_ in St. James's
Park took their names from a game which was very fashionable after the
Restoration, but which was already known in the time of Charles I. The
game was called _pall-mall_, from the French _paille-maille_. After
the Restoration Charles II. allowed the people to use St. James's
Park, which was a royal park, and Londoners used to watch respectfully
and admiringly as Charles and his brother James played this game.

_Spring Gardens_, also in St. James's Park, reminds us of the lively
spirits of Restoration times. It was so called because of a fountain
which stood there, and which was so arranged that when a passer-by
trod by accident on a certain valve the waters spurted forth and
drenched him. We should not think this so funny now as people did

At the same time that the West End was growing, poorer districts were
spreading to the north and east of the City. _Moorfields_ (which tells
us by its name what it was like in the early London days) was built
over. _Spitalfields_ (which took its name from one of the many
hospitals which religious people built in and near mediæval London)
and _Whitechapel_ also filled up, and became centres of trade and
manufacture. The games and sports which amused the people in these
poorer quarters were not so refined as the ball-throwing of the
princes and courtiers. In the name _Balls Pond Road_, Islington, we
are reminded of the duck-hunting which was one of the sports of the
common people.

As time went on and London became larger and more crowded, the
fashionable people began to go away each summer to drink the waters at
Bath and Tunbridge Wells. But in London itself there were several
springs and wells whose waters were supposed to be good for people's
health, and these have given us some of the best-known London names.
Near _Holywell Street_ there were several of these wells; and along
_Well Walk_, in the north-west suburb of Hampstead, a procession of
gaily-dressed people might regularly be seen in Charles II.'s time
going to drink the waters. _Clerkenwell_ also took its name from a
well which was believed to be mediæval and even miraculous.
_Bridewell_, the name of the famous prison, also came from the name of
a well dedicated to St. Bride.

Many of the great streets and squares of the West End of London have
taken their names from the houses of noblemen who have lived there, or
from the names of the rich owners of property in these parts.
_Northumberland Avenue_, opening off Trafalgar Square, takes its name
from Northumberland House, built there in the time of James I.
_Arundel Street_, running down to the Embankment from the Strand, is
so called in memory of Arundel House, the home of the Earl of Arundel,
which used to stand here. It was there that the famous collection of
statues known as the "Arundel Marbles" was first collected. They were
presented to Oxford University in 1667.

Just near Charing Cross there is a part of old London called the
_Adelphi_. This district takes its name from a fine group of buildings
put up there in the middle of the eighteenth century by the two famous
brother architects Robert and William Adam. _Adelphi_ is the Greek
word for "brothers," but the name seems very peculiar applied in this

The name of _Mayfair_, the very centre of fashion in the West End,
reminds us that in this magnificent quarter of London a fair used to
be held in May in the time of Charles II. This gives us an idea of how
the district must have changed since then. _Farm Street_, in Mayfair,
has its name from a farm which was still there in the middle of the
eighteenth century. The ground is now taken up by stables and
coach-houses. _Half-Moon Street_, another fashionable street running
out of Piccadilly, takes its name from a public house which was built
on this corner in 1730.

These old names give us some idea of what London was like at different
times in the past; but another very interesting group of names are
those which are being made in the greater London of to-day. One of the
commonest words used by Londoners to-day is the _Underground_. If an
eighteenth-century Londoner could come back and talk to us to-day he
would not know what we meant by this word. For the great system of
underground railways to which it refers was only made in the later
years of the nineteenth century. The _Twopenny Tube_ was the name of
one of the first lines of these underground railways. It was so called
because the trains ran through great circular tunnels, like the
underground railways which connect all parts of London to-day. It has
now become quite a habit of Londoners to talk of going "by Tube" when
they mean by any of the underground railways.

One of these lines has a very peculiar and rather ugly name. It is
called the _Bakerloo Railway_, because it runs from Baker Street to
Waterloo. It certainly makes us think that the Londoners of long ago
showed much better taste in the names they invented.



As we have seen, languages while they are living are always growing
and changing. We have seen how new names have been made as time went
on. But many new words besides names are constantly being added to a
language; for just as grown-up people use more words than children,
and educated people use more words than uneducated or less educated
people, so, too, _nations_ use more words as time goes on. Every word
must have been used a first time by some one; but of course it is
impossible to know who were the makers of most words. Even new words
cannot often be traced to their makers. Some one uses a new word, and
others pick it up, and it passes into general use, while everybody has
forgotten who made it.

But one very common way in which people learn to use new words is
through reading the books of great writers. Sometimes these writers
have made new words which their readers have seen to be very good, and
have then begun to use themselves. Sometimes these great writers have
made use of words which, though not new, were very rare, and
immediately these words have become popular and ordinary words.

The first great English poet was Chaucer, and the great English
philologists feel sure that he must have made many new words and made
many rare words common; but it is not easy to say that Chaucer made
any particular word, because we do not know enough of the language
which was in use at that time to say so. One famous phrase of Chaucer
is often quoted now: "after the schole of Stratford-atte-Bowe," which
he used in describing the French spoken by one of the Canterbury
Pilgrims in his great poem. He meant that this was not pure French,
but French spoken in the way and with the peculiar accent used at
Stratford (a part of London near Bow Church). We now often use the
phrase to describe any accent which is not perfect.

But though we do not know for certain which words Chaucer introduced,
we do know that this first great English poet must have introduced
many, especially French words; while Wyclif, the first great English
prose writer, who translated part of the Bible from Latin into
English, must also have given us many new words, especially from the
Latin. The English language never changed so much after the time of
Chaucer and Wyclif as it had done before.

The next really great English poet, Edmund Spenser, who wrote his
wonderful poem, "The Faerie Queene," in the days of Queen Elizabeth,
invented a great many new words. Some of these were seldom or never
used afterwards, but some became ordinary English words. Sometimes his
new words were partly formed out of old words which were no longer
used. The word _elfin_, which became quite a common word, seems to
have been invented by Spenser. He called a boasting knight by the name
_Braggadocio_, and we still use the word _braggadocio_ for vain
boasting. A common expression which we often find used in romantic
tales, and especially in the novels of Sir Walter Scott, _derring-do_,
meaning "adventurous action," was first used by Spenser. He, however,
took it from Chaucer, who had used it as a _verb_, speaking of the
_dorring-do_ (or "daring to do") that belonged to a knight. Spenser
made a mistake in thinking Chaucer had used it as a noun, and used it
so himself, making in this way quite a new and very well-sounding

Another word which Spenser made, and which is still sometimes used,
was _fool-happy_; but other words, like _idlesse_, _dreariment_,
_drowsihead_, are hardly seen outside his poetry. One reason for this
is that Spenser was telling stories of quaint and curious things, and
he used quaint and curious words which would not naturally pass into
ordinary language.

The next great name in English literature, and the greatest name of
all, is Shakespeare. Shakespeare influenced the English language more
than any writer before or since. First of all he made a great many new
words, some very simple and others more elaborate, but all of them so
suitable that they have become a part of the language. Such a common
word as _bump_, which it would be difficult to imagine ourselves
without, is first found in Shakespeare's writings. _Hurry_, which
seems to be the only word to express what it stands for, seems also to
have been made by Shakespeare, and also the common word _dwindle_.
Some other words which Shakespeare made are _lonely_, _orb_ (meaning
"globe"), _illumine_, and _home-keeping_.

Many others might be quoted, but the great influence which Shakespeare
had on the English language was not through the new words he made, but
in the way his expressions and phrases came to be used as ordinary
expressions. Many people are constantly speaking Shakespeare without
knowing it, for the phrases he used were so exactly right and
expressive that they have been repeated ever since, and often, of
course, by people who do not know where they first came from. We can
only mention a few of these phrases, such as "a Daniel come to
judgment," which Shylock says to Portia in the "Merchant of Venice,"
and which is often used now sarcastically. From the same play comes
the expression "pound of flesh," which is now often used to mean what
a person knows to be due to him and is determined to have. "Full of
sound and fury, signifying nothing," "to gild refined gold," "to wear
one's heart upon one's sleeve,"--these and hundreds of other phrases
are known by most people to come from Shakespeare; they are used by
many who do not. They describe so splendidly so many things which are
constantly happening that they seem to be the only or at least the
best way of expressing the meanings they signify.

But not only have hundreds of Shakespeare's own words and phrases
passed into everyday English, but the way in which he turned his
phrases is often imitated. It was Shakespeare who used the phrase to
"out-Herod Herod," and now this is a common form of speech. A
statesman could now quite suitably use the phrase to "out-Asquith

The next great poet after Shakespeare was Milton. He also gave us a
great many new words and phrases, but not nearly so many as
Shakespeare. Still there are a few phrases which are now so common
that many people use them without even knowing that they come from
Milton's writings. Some of these are "the human face divine," "to hide
one's diminished head," "a dim religious light," "the light fantastic
toe." It was Milton who invented the name _pandemonium_ for the home
of the devils, and now people regularly speak of a state of horrible
noise and disorder as "a pandemonium." Many of those who use the
expression have not the slightest idea of where it came from. The few
words which we know were made by Milton are very expressive words. It
was he who invented _anarch_ for the spirit of anarchy or disorder,
and no one has found a better word to express the idea. _Satanic_,
_moon-struck_, _gloom_ (to mean "darkness"), _echoing_, and _bannered_
are some more well-known words invented by Milton.

It is not always the greatest writers who have given us the greatest
number of new words. A great prose writer of the seventeenth century,
Sir Thomas Browne, is looked upon as a classical writer, but his works
are only read by a few, not like the great works of Shakespeare and
Milton. Yet Sir Thomas Browne has given many new words to the English
language. This is partly because he deliberately made many new words.
One book of his gave us several hundreds of these words. The reason
his new words remained in the language was that there was a real need
of them.

Many seventeenth-century writers of plays invented hundreds of new
words, but they tried to invent curious and queer-sounding words, and
very few people liked them. These words never really became part of
the English language. They are "one-man" words, to be found only in
the writings of their inventors. Yet it was one of these fanciful
writers who invented the very useful word _dramatist_ for "a writer of

But the words made by Sir Thomas Browne were quite different. Such
ordinary words as _medical_, _literary_, and _electricity_ were first
used by him. He made many others too, not quite so common, but words
which later writers and speakers could hardly do without.

Another seventeenth-century writer, John Evelyn, the author of the
famous _Diary_ which has taught us so much about the times in which he
lived, was a great maker of words. Most of his new words were made
from foreign words, and as he was much interested in art and music,
many of his words relate to these things. It was Evelyn who introduced
the word _opera_ into English, and also _outline_, _altitude_,
_monochrome_ ("a painting in one shade"), and _pastel_, besides many
other less common words.

Robert Boyle, a great seventeenth-century writer on science, gave many
new scientific words to the English language. The words _pendulum_ and
_intensity_ were first used by him, and it was he who first used
_fluid_ as a noun.

The poets Dryden and Pope gave us many new words too.

Dr. Johnson, the maker of the first great English dictionary, added
some words to the language. As everybody knows who has read that
famous book, Boswell's _Life of Johnson_, Dr. Johnson was a man who
always said just what he thought, and had no patience with anything
like stupidity. The expression _fiddlededee_, another way of telling a
person that he is talking nonsense, was made by him. _Irascibility_,
which means "tendency to be easily made cross or angry," is also one
of his words, and so are the words _literature_ and _comic_.

The great statesman and political writer, Edmund Burke, was the
inventor of many of our commonest words relating to politics.
_Colonial_, _colonization_, _electioneering_, _diplomacy_,
_financial_, and many other words which are in everyday use now, were
made by him.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a great revival
in English literature, since known as the "Romantic Movement." After
the rather stiff manners and writing of the eighteenth century, people
began to have an enthusiasm for all sorts of old and adventurous
things, and a new love for nature and beauty. Sir Walter Scott was the
great novelist of the movement, and also wrote some fine, stirring
ballads and poems. In these writings, which dealt chiefly with the
adventurous deeds of the Middle Ages, Scott used again many old words
which had been forgotten and fallen out of use. He made them everyday
words again.

The old word _chivalrous_, which had formerly been used to describe
the institutions connected with knighthood, he used in a new way, and
the word has kept this meaning ever since. It has now always the
meaning of courtesy and gentleness towards the weak, but before Sir
Walter Scott used it it had not this meaning at all. Scott also
revived words like _raid_ and _foray_, his novels, of course, being
full of descriptions of fighting on the borders of England and
Scotland. It was this same writer who introduced the Scottish word
_gruesome_ into the language.

Later in the century another Scotsman, Thomas Carlyle, made many new
words which later writers and speakers have used. They are generally
rather forcible and not very dignified words, for Carlyle's writings
were critical of almost everything and everybody, and he seemed to
love rather ugly words, which made the faults he described seem
contemptible or ridiculous. It was he who made the words _croakery_,
_dry-as-dust_, and _grumbly_, and he introduced also the Scottish word
_feckless_, which describes a person who is a terribly bad manager,
careless and disorderly in his affairs, the sort of person whom
Carlyle so much despised.

The great writers of the present time seem to be unwilling to make new
words. The chief word-makers of to-day are the people who talk a new
slang (and of these we shall see something in another chapter), and
the scientific writers, who, as they are constantly making new
discoveries, have to find words to describe them.

Some of the poets of the present day have used new words and phrases,
but they are generally strange words, which no one thinks of using for
himself. The poet John Masefield used the word _waps_ and the phrase
_bee-loud_, which is very expressive, but which we cannot imagine
passing into ordinary speech. Two poets of the Romantic Movement,
Southey and Coleridge, used many new and strange words just in this
way, but these, again, never passed into the ordinary speech of
English people.

One maker of new words in the nineteenth century must not be
forgotten. This was Lewis Carroll, the author of "Alice in Wonderland"
and "Through the Looking-Glass." He made many new and rather queer
words; but they expressed so well the meaning he gave to them that
some of them have become quite common. This writer generally made
these curious words out of two others. The word _galumph_ (which is
now put as an ordinary word in English dictionaries) he made out of
_gallop_ and _triumph_. It means "to go galloping in triumph." Another
of Lewis Carroll's words, _chortle_, is even more used. It also has
the idea of "triumphing," and is generally used to mean "chuckling
(either inwardly or outwardly) in triumph." It was probably made out
of the words _chuckle_ and _snort_.

But great writers have not only added new words and phrases to the
language by inventing them; sometimes the name of a book itself has
taken on a general meaning. Sir Thomas More in the time of Henry VIII.
wrote his famous book, "Utopia," to describe a country in which
everything was done as it should be. _Utopia_ (which means "Nowhere,"
More making the word out of two Greek words, _ou_, "not," and _topos_,
"place") was the name of the ideal state he described, and ever since
such imaginary states where all goes well have been described as

Then, again, a scene or place in a great book may be so splendidly
described, and interest people so much, that it, too, comes to be used
in a general way. People often use the name _Vanity Fair_ to describe
a frivolous way of life. But the original _Vanity Fair_ was, of
course, one of the places of temptation through which Christian had to
pass on his way to the Heavenly City in John Bunyan's famous book, the
"Pilgrim's Progress." Another of these places was the _Slough of
Despond_, which is now quite generally used to describe a condition of
great discouragement and depression. The adjective _Lilliputian_,
meaning "very small," comes from _Lilliput_, the land of little people
in which Gulliver found himself in Swift's famous book, "Gulliver's

Then many common expressions are taken from characters in well-known
books. We often speak of some one's _Man Friday_, meaning a right-hand
man or general helper; but the original Man Friday was, of course, the
savage whom Robinson Crusoe found on his desert island, and who acted
afterwards as his servant.

In describing a person as _quixotic_ we do not necessarily think of
the original Don Quixote in the novel of the great Spanish writer,
Cervantes. Don Quixote was always doing generous but rather foolish
things, and the adjective _quixotic_ now describes this sort of
action. A quite different character, the Jew in Shakespeare's play,
"The Merchant of Venice," has given us the expression "a Shylock."
From Dickens's famous character Mrs. Gamp in "Martin Chuzzlewit," who
always carried a bulgy umbrella, we get the word _gamp_, rather a
vulgar name for "umbrella."

We speak of "a Sherlock Holmes" when we mean to describe some one who
is very quick at finding out things. Sherlock Holmes is the hero of
the famous detective stories of Conan Doyle.

It is a very great testimony to the power of a writer when the names
of persons or places in his books become in this way part of the
English language.



A great English historian, writing of the sixteenth century, once
said, "The English people became the people of a book." The book he
meant was, of course, the Bible. When England became Protestant the
people found a new interest in the Bible. In Catholic times educated
people, like priests, had read the Bible chiefly in Latin, though the
New Testament had been translated into English. But most of the people
could not even read. They knew the Bible stories only from the sermons
and teaching of the priests, and from the great number of statues of
Biblical kings and prophets which covered the beautiful churches of
the Middle Ages.

But the new Protestant teachers were much more enthusiastic about the
Bible. Many of them found the whole of their religion in its pages,
and were constantly quoting texts of Scripture. New translations of
the New Testament were made, and at last, in 1611, the wonderful
translation of the whole Bible known as the "Authorised Version,"
because it was the translation ordered and approved by the
Government, was published. About the same time a translation into
English was made for Catholics, and this was hardly less beautiful. It
is known as the "Douai Bible" because it was published at Douai by
Catholics who had fled from England.

From that time the Bible has been the book which English people have
read most, and it has had an immense influence on the English

Even in the Middle Ages the Bible had given many new words to the
language. Names of Eastern animals, trees, and plants, etc., like
_lion_, _camel_, _cedar_, _palm_, _myrrh_, _hyssop_, _gem_, are
examples of new words learned from the Bible at this time.

But the translations of the Bible in the Reformation period had a much
greater effect than this. Many words which were already dying out were
used by the translators, and so kept their place in the English
language. Examples of such words are _apparel_ and _raiment_ for
"clothes." These words are not used so often as the more ordinary word
_clothes_ even now, but it is quite probable that they would have
passed out of use altogether if the translators of the Bible had not
saved them.

There are many words of this sort which were saved in this way, but
they are chiefly used in poetry and "fine" writing. We do not speak of
the "firmament" in an ordinary way; but this word, taken from the
first chapter of the Bible, is still used as a more poetical name for

But the translators of the Bible must also be put among the makers of
new English words. Sometimes the translator could not find what he
considered a satisfactory word to express the meaning of the Greek
word he wished to translate. He, therefore, made a new word, or put
two old words together to express exactly what he thought the Greek
word meant. The word _beautiful_ may not have been actually invented
by the translator, William Tyndale, but it is not found in any book
earlier than his translation of the New Testament. It seems a very
natural and necessary word to us now. It was Tyndale who first used
the words _peacemaker_ and _scapegoat_ and the compound word
_long-suffering_; and another famous translator, Miles Coverdale, who
invented the expressions _loving-kindness_ and _tender mercy_.

But the great effect which the Bible has had on the English language
is not in the preserving of old words and the making of new. Its chief
effect has been in the way many of its expressions and phrases have
passed into everyday use, so that people often use Biblical phrases
without even knowing that they are doing so, just as we saw was the
case with many phrases taken from Shakespeare's works.

Every one knows the expression to _cast pearls before swine_, and its
meaning, "to give good things to people who are too ignorant to
appreciate them." This expression, taken from the Gospel of St.
Matthew, has now become an ordinary English expression. The same is
the case with the expression, _the eleventh hour_, meaning "just in
time." But perhaps not every one who uses it remembers that it comes
from the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, though, of course,
most people would.

Other common Biblical expressions are, _a labour of love_, _to hope
against hope_, _the shadow of death_, and so on. When a child is
described as the _Benjamin_ of the family, we know that this means the
youngest and best loved, because the story of Jacob's love for
Benjamin is familiar to every one. Again, when a person is described
as a _Pharisee_ no one needs to have a description of his qualities,
for every one knows the story of the Pharisee and the Publican.

The Bible is, of course, full of the most poetical ideas and the most
vivid language, and the fact that this language has become the
everyday speech of Englishmen has been most important in the
development of the English language. Without the Bible, which is full
of the richness and colour of Eastern things and early peoples, the
English language might have been much duller and less expressive.

But the religious writers of the Reformation period gave us another
kind of word besides those found in the translations of the Bible.
Many of these writers thought it was their duty to abuse the people
who did not agree with them on the subject of religion. Tyndale
himself, who invented such beautiful words in his translations, was
the first to use the word _dunce_. He called the Catholics by this
name, which he made out of the name of a philosopher of the Middle
Ages called Duns Scotus. The Protestants despised the Catholic or
scholastic philosophy. But Duns Scotus was quite a clever man in his
day, and it is curious that his name should have given us the word
_dunce_, which became quite a common word as time went on.

Other new words which the Protestants used against the Catholics were
_Romish_, _Romanist_ (which Luther had used, but which Coverdale was
the first to use in English), _popery_, _popishness_, _papistical_,
_monkish_, all of which are still used to-day, and still have an
anti-Catholic meaning. It was then that Rome was first described as
_Babylon_, the meaning of the Protestants being that the city was as
wicked as ancient Babylon, the name of which is used as a type of all
wickedness in the Apocalypse, and these writers often used the words
_Babylonian_ and _Babylonish_ instead of _Roman_. The name _Scarlet
Woman_, also taken from the Apocalypse, was also often used to
describe the Catholic Church.

The expression _Roman Catholic_, to which no one objects, was invented
later, at the time that it was thought that Charles I. was going to
marry a Spanish princess, and, of course, a Catholic. It was invented
as being more polite than the terms by which the Protestants had so
often abused the Catholics, and it has been used ever since.

Other new words came from the breaking up of Protestantism into
different sects. _Puritan_ was the name given to those who wished to
"purify" the Protestant religion from all the old ceremonies of
Catholicism. The Calvinists (or followers of the French reformer, John
Calvin) believed that souls were "predestined" to go to heaven or to
be lost. The people who were predestined to be lost they described as
_reprobate_, and this word we still use, but with a different meaning.
A reprobate nowadays is a person who is looked upon as hopelessly bad,
and the word is also sometimes used jokingly.

The name _Protestant_ itself is interesting. It was first used to
describe the Lutherans, who "protested" against, and would not agree
with, the decisions made by the Emperor Charles V. on the subject of

The names of the different forms of Protestantism are often very
interesting, and were, of course, new words invented to describe the
different forms of belief. The first great division was between the
_Lutherans_ and the _Calvinists_. The meaning of these names is plain.
They were merely the followers of Martin Luther and John Calvin.

But later on there were many divisions, such as the _Baptists_, who
were so called because they thought that people should not be baptized
until they were grown up. They also administered the sacrament in a
different way from most other Churches, the person baptized being
dipped in the water. At one time these people were called
_Anabaptists_, _ana_ being the Greek word for "again." But this was
supposed to be a term of abuse similar to those showered on the Roman
Catholics, and in time it died out.

Then there were the _Independents_, who were so called because they
believed that each congregation should be independent of every other.

Perhaps the most peculiar name applied to one of the many sects in the
England of the seventeenth century was that of the _Quakers_. This,
too, was a name of abuse at first; but the "Society of Friends," to
whom it was applied, came sometimes to use it themselves. They were a
people who believed in great simplicity of life and manners and dress,
and had no priests. At their religious meetings silence was kept until
some one was moved to speak. The name was taken from the text,
"quaking at the word of the Lord."

The names chosen by religious leaders, and those applied to the sects
by their enemies, can teach us a great deal of history.



Many words have been taken from the names of people, saints and
sinners, men who have helped on human progress and men who have tried
to stand in its way, from queens and kings and nobles, and from quite
humble people.

One large group of words has been made from the names of great
inventors. All through history men have been inventing new things. We
realize this if we think of what England is like to-day, and what it
was like in the days of the early Britons. But even by the time of the
early Britons many things had been invented which the earlier races of
men had not known. Perhaps the greatest inventor the world has ever
known was the man who first discovered how to make fire; but we shall
never know who he was.

The people who discovered how to make metal weapons instead of the
stone weapons which early men used were great inventors too; and those
who discovered how to grow crops of corn and wheat, and so gave new
food to the human race. But all this happened in times long past,
before men had any idea of writing down their records, and so these
inventors have not left their names for us to admire.

But in historical times, and especially in the centuries since the
Renaissance, there have been many inventors, and it will be
interesting to see how the things they invented got their names. The
word _inventor_ itself means a "finder," and comes to us from the
Latin word _invenio_, "I find."

The greatest number of inventions have been made in the last hundred and
fifty years. The printing-press was, of course, a great invention of the
fifteenth century, but it was simply called the _printing-press_, and
did not take the name of its inventor. Yet this was a new name too, for
the people of the Middle Ages would not have known what a printing-press

Several early printers have, however, had their names preserved in the
description of the beautiful books they produced. All lovers of rare
books are admirers of what they call _Aldines_ and _Elzevirs_--that
is, books printed at the press of Aldo Manuzio and his family at
Venice in the sixteenth century, and by the Elzevir family in Holland
in the seventeenth century.

We speak of a _Bradshaw_ and a _Baedeker_ to describe the best-known
of all railway guides and guide-books. The first takes its name from
George Bradshaw, a map engraver, who was born in Manchester in 1801,
and lived there till he died, in 1853. In 1839 he published on his
own account "Bradshaw's Railway Time Table," of which he changed the
name to "Railway Companion" in the next year. He corrected it a few
days after the beginning of each month by the railway time sheets, but
even then the railway companies sometimes made changes later in the
month. In a short time, however, the companies agreed to fix their
time tables monthly, and in December 1841 Bradshaw was able to publish
the first number of "Bradshaw's Monthly Railway Guide." Six years
afterwards he published the first number of "Bradshaw's Continental
Railway Guide."

The famous series of guides now called _Baedekers_ take their name
from Karl Baedeker, a German publisher, who in the first half of the
nineteenth century began to publish this famous series.

Members of Parliament still speak of the volumes containing the
printed record of what goes on in Parliament as _Hansard_. This name
comes from that of the first publisher of such records, Luke Hansard,
who was printer to the House of Commons from 1798 until he died, in
1828. His family continued to print the reports as late as 1889, and
though the work is now shared by other firms, the name is still kept.

Not only books but musical instruments are frequently called after
their makers. The two most famous and valuable kinds of old violins
take their names from the Italian family of the Amati, who made
violins in the sixteenth century, and Antonio Stradivari, who was
their pupil. An _Amati_ and a _Stradivarius_, often called a "Strad"
for short, are the names now given by musicians to the splendid old
violins made by these people.

The names of many flowers have been taken from the names of persons,
and this still goes on to-day when new varieties of roses or sweet
peas are called after the person who first grew them, or some friend
of this person. These modern names are not, as a rule, very romantic,
but some of the older ones are interesting. The _dahlia_, for
instance, was called after Dahl, a Swedish botanist, who was a pupil
of the great botanist Linnæus, after whom the chief botanical society
in England, the _Linnæan Society_, is called. The _lobelia_ was so
called after Matthias de Lobel, a Flemish botanist and physician to
King James I. The _fuchsia_ took its name from Leonard Fuchs, a
sixteenth-century botanist, the first German who really studied

There are many more new things and names to-day than in earlier times,
names which our grand-parents and even our parents did not know when
they were children. We talk familiarly now about _aeroplanes_ and the
different kinds of aeroplanes, such as the _monoplane_, _biplane_,
etc. But these are new names invented in the last twenty years. Some
of the names of airships and aeroplanes are very interesting. The
_Taube_, for instance, is so called from the German word meaning
"dove," because it looks very like a bird when it is up in the sky.
The great German airships called _Zeppelins_ took their name from the
German Count Zeppelin, who invented them; and the splendid French
airships called _Fokkers_ also take their name from their inventor,
and so does the _Gotha_--name of ill-fame.

The man who first discovered gunpowder is forgotten, but many of the
powerful guns which are used in modern warfare are called after their
inventors. The _Gatling gun_ is not much talked of to-day, but it was
a famous gun in its time, and took its name from the American
inventor, Richard Jordan Gatling, who lived in the early nineteenth
century, and devoted his life to inventions. Some were peaceable
inventions, like machines for sowing cotton and rice; but he is best
remembered by the great gun to which he gave his name.

Another famous gun of which we have heard a great deal in the Great
War is the _Maxim gun_, which again took its name from its inventor,
Sir Hiram Maxim. The _shrapnel_, of which also so much was heard in
the Great War, the terrible shells which burst a certain time after
leaving the gun without striking against anything, took its name from
its inventor. The chief peculiarity of shrapnel is that the bullets
fall from above in a shower from the shell as it bursts in the air.

But there are many other names which we should not easily guess to
come from the names of inventors. People talk of a macadamized road
without knowing that these roads are so called because they are made
in the way invented by John M'Adam, who lived from 1756 to 1836. The
name _macadam_ is often used now to denote the material used in making
roads. Sometimes this material is of a sort which John M'Adam would
not have approved of at all, for he did not believe in pouring a fluid
material over the stones, or in the heavy rollers which are now often
used in making new roads.

Another useful article, the homely _mackintosh_, takes its name from
that of another Scotsman, Charles Macintosh, who lived at the same
time as M'Adam. It was he who first, in 1823, finished the invention
of a waterproof cloth.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many great discoveries were
made in science, and many names of discoverers and inventors have been
preserved in scientific words. _Galvanism_, one branch of electricity,
took its name from Luigi Galvani, an Italian professor, who made great
discoveries about electricity in the bodies of animals. Every one has
heard of a galvanic battery, but not everybody knows how it got its

_Mesmerism_, or the science by which the human mind is influenced by
suggestions from itself or another mind, took its name from Friedrich
Anton Mesmer, who first made great discoveries about animal magnetism.

Another famous discoverer of the powers of electricity, and one who is
still a young man, is Guglielmo Marconi, a native of Bologna. It was
he who invented the great system of wireless telegraphy which is now
used in nearly all big ships. In 1899 he first succeeded in sending a
message in this way from England to France, and in the next year he
sent one right across the Atlantic. Now ships frequently send a
_Marconigram_ home when they are right in the middle of the ocean; and
many lives have been saved through ships in distress having been able
to send out wireless messages which have brought other vessels
steaming up to their aid. In fact, this invention of Marconi's is,
perhaps, the greatest of all modern inventions, and it is but right
that it should preserve his name.

A different kind of invention has preserved the name of the fourth
Earl of Sandwich, an eighteenth-century nobleman, who was so fond of
card games that he could not bear to leave the card table even to eat
his meals, and so invented what has ever since been called by his
name--the _sandwich_.

Not unlike the origin of the name sandwich is that of _Abernethy_
biscuits, so called after the doctor who invented the recipe for
making them.

It was another doctor, the French physician, Joseph Ignace Guillotin,
who gave his name to the _guillotine_, the terrible knife with which
people were beheaded in thousands during the French Revolution.
Guillotin did not really invent it, nor was he himself guillotined, as
has often been said. The guillotine is supposed to have been invented
long ago in Persia, and was used in the Middle Ages both in Italy and
Germany. The Frenchman whose name it bears was a kindly person, who
merely advised this method of execution at the time of the French
Revolution, because he thought, and rightly, that if people were to be
beheaded at all, it should be done swiftly and not clumsily.

But many things are called by the names of persons who were not
inventors at all. Sometimes a new kind of clothing is called after
some great person just to make it seem distinguished. A _Chesterfield_
overcoat is so called because the tailor who first gave this kind of
coat that name wished to suggest that it had all the elegance
displayed in the clothing of the famous eighteenth-century dandy, the
fourth Earl of Chesterfield. So the well-known _Raglan_ coats and
sleeves took their name first from an English general, Baron Raglan,
who fought in the Crimean War. Both Wellington and Blücher, the two
generals who fought together and defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, gave
their names to different kinds of boots. _Bluchers_ are strong leather
half boots or high shoes, and _Wellingtons_ are high riding boots
reaching to the bend of the knee at the back of the leg, and covering
the knee in front. Wellington is supposed to have worn such boots in
his campaigns.

Another article of clothing which was very popular with ladies at one
time was the _Garibaldi_ blouse, which was so called after the red
shirts which were worn by the followers of the famous soldier who won
liberty for Italy, Garibaldi.

The rather vulgar name for ladies' divided skirts--_bloomers_--came
from the name of an American woman, Mrs. Amelia Jenks Bloomer, who
used to wear a skirt which reached to her knee, and then was divided
into Turkish trousers tied round her ankles.

A great many different kinds of carriages and vehicles have been
called by the names of people. The _brougham_, which is still a
favourite form of closed carriage, got its name from Lord Brougham.
The old four-wheeled carriage with a curved glass front got its name
from the Duke of Clarence, who afterwards became King William IV.; and
the carriage known as the _Victoria_ was so called as a compliment to
Queen Victoria. We do not hear much of this kind of carriage now; but
the two-wheeled cab known as the _hansom_ is still to be seen in the
streets of London, in spite of the coming of the taxicab. This form of
conveyance took its name from an architect who invented it in 1834. An
earlier kind of two-wheeled carriage invented a few years before this,
but which was displaced by the hansom, was the _stanhope_, also called
after its inventor. The general name for a two-wheeled carriage of
this sort used to be the _phaeton_, and this was not taken from any
person, but from the sun-chariot in which, according to the old Greek
story, the son of Helios rode to destruction when he had roused the
anger of the great Greek god, Zeus.

The names of old Greeks and Romans have given us many words. We speak
of a very rich man as a _Croesus_, a word which was the name of a
fabulously rich tyrant in Ancient Greece. A person who is supposed to
be a great judge of food, and devoted to the pleasures of the table,
is called an _epicure_, from the old Greek philosopher Epicurus, who
taught that the chief aim of life was to feel pleasure. The word
_cynic_, too, comes from the name given to certain Greek philosophers
who despised pleasure. The name was originally a nickname for these
philosophers, and was taken from the Greek word _kunos_, "dog."

We describe a person who chooses to live a very hard life as a
_Spartan_, because the people of the old Greek state of Sparta planned
their lives so that every one should be disciplined and drilled to
make good soldiers, and were never allowed to indulge in too much
comfort or too many amusements, lest they should become lazy in mind
and weak in body. A _Draconian_ system of law is one which has no
mercy, and preserves the name of Draco, a statesman who was appointed
to draw up laws for the Athenians six hundred and twenty-one years
before the birth of Our Lord, and who drew up a very strict code of

The word _mausoleum_, which is now used to describe any large or
distinguished tomb, comes from the tomb built for Mausolus, king of
Caria (in Greek Asia Minor), by his widow, Artemisia, in 353 B.C. The
tomb itself, which rises to a height of over one hundred and twelve
feet, is now to be seen in the British Museum.

The verb _to hector_, meaning "to bully," is taken from the name of
the Trojan hero Hector, in the famous old Greek poem, the Iliad.
Hector was not, as a matter of fact, a bully, but a very brave man,
and it is curious that his name should have come to be used in this
unpleasant sense. The other great Greek poem, the Odyssey, has given
us the name of one of its characters for a fairly common English word.
A _mentor_ is a person who gives us wise advice, but the original
Mentor was a character in this great poem, the wise counsellor of

From the names of great Romans, too, we have many words. If we
describe a person as a _Nero_, every one knows that this means a cruel
tyrant. Nero was the worst of all the Roman emperors, and the story
tells that he was so heartless that he played on his violin while
watching the burning of Rome. Some people even said that he himself
set the city on fire. Again, the name of Julius Cæsar, who was the
first imperial governor of Rome, though he was never called emperor,
has given us a common name. _Cæsar_ came to mean "an emperor;" and the
modern German _Kaiser_ and the Russian _Tsar_ come from this name of
the "noblest Roman of them all."

An earlier Roman was Fabius Cunctator (or "Fabius the
Procrastinator"), a general who, instead of fighting actual battles
with the Carthaginian Hannibal, the great enemy of Rome, preferred to
tire him out by keeping him waiting and never giving battle. His name
has given us the word _Fabian_, to describe this kind of tactics.

The name by which people often describe an unscrupulous politician now
is _Machiavellian_, an adjective made from the name of a great writer
on the government of states. At the time of the Renaissance in Italy,
Machiavelli, in his famous book called "The Prince," took it for
granted that every ruler would do anything, good or bad, to arrive at
the results he desired.

Another common word taken at first from politics, but now used in a
general sense, is _boycott_. To boycott a person means to be
determined to ignore or take no notice of him. A child may be
"boycotted" by disagreeable companions at school. Another expression
for the same disagreeable method is to "send to Coventry."

But the political boycotting from which the word passed into general
use took place in Ireland, when any one with whose politics the Irish
did not agree was treated in this way. The first victim of this kind
of treatment was Captain Boycott of County Mayo in 1880. So useful has
this word been found that both the French and Germans have borrowed
it. The French have now the word _boycotter_, and the Germans

Another Irish name which has given us a common word is Burke.
Sometimes in a discussion one person will tell another that he
_burkes_ the question. This means that he is avoiding the real subject
of debate. Or a rumour may be _burked_, or "hushed up." In this way
the subject is, as it were, smothered. And it was from this meaning
that the name came to be used as a general word. William Burke was an
Irish labourer who was executed in 1829, when he was found guilty of
having murdered several people. His habit had been to smother them, so
that their bodies did not show how they had died, and sell their
bodies to a doctor for dissection. From this dreadful origin we have
the new use of this fine old Irish name.

People who love books are often very indignant when the editors of a
new edition of an old book think it proper to leave out certain
passages which they think are indecent or unsuitable for people to
read. This is called "expurgating" the book; but people who disapprove
often call it to _bowdlerize_. This word comes from the name of Dr.
Thomas Bowdler, who in 1818 published an edition of Shakespeare's
works in which, as he said, "those words and expressions are omitted
which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family."

Sometimes a badly-dressed or peculiar-looking person is described as a
_guy_. This word comes from the name of Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder
Plotter, through the effigies, or "guys," which are often burned in
bonfires on November 5th.

Certain Christian names have, for reasons which it is not easy to see,
given us words which mean "fool" or "stupid person." The word _ninny_
comes from Innocent. _Noddy_ probably comes from Nicodemus or
Nicholas. Both these names are used to mean "foolish person" in
France, and so is _benêt_, which comes from Benedict.

Some saints' names have given us words which do not seem at first
sight to have any connection with them. The word _maudlin_, by which
we mean "foolishly sentimental," comes from the name of St. Mary
Magdalen, a saint whose name immediately suggests to us sorrow and
weeping. The word _maudlin_ suggests the idea of being ready to weep
unnecessarily. In this way a word describing a disagreeable quality is
taken from the name of one of the most honoured saints.

The word _tawdry_, by which we mean cheap and showy things with no
real beauty, comes from St. Audrey, another name for St. Etheldreda,
who founded Ely Cathedral. In the Middle Ages St. Audrey's Fair used
to be held at Ely, and as fairs are always full of cheap and showy
things, it was from this that the word _tawdry_ came.

_St. Anthony's fire_ is a well-known name for erysipelas, and _St.
Vitus's dance_ for another distressing disease. These names came from
the fact that these saints used to be chosen out as the special
patrons of people suffering from such diseases. In the same way the
disease which used to be called the _King's Evil_ was so named
because people formerly believed that persons suffering from it would
be cured if touched by the hands of the king or the queen. On certain
occasions, even down to the time of Queen Anne, English kings and
queens "touched" crowds of sufferers from this disease.

So in these words taken from the names of people we may read many a
story of love and sorrow and wonder, of disgust and every human



It is easy to see how names of persons have sometimes changed into
general words. But we have also a great number of general words which
are taken from animals' names. Most often these words are used to
describe people's characters. Sometimes people are merely compared
with the animals whose qualities they are supposed to have, and
sometimes they are actually called by the names of these animals. Thus
we may say that a person is "as sly as a fox," or we may call him an
"old fox," and every one understands the same thing by both

The cause of this continual comparison of human beings with animals is
that long ago, when these expressions first began to be used, animals,
and especially wild animals, played a great part in the lives of the
people. In the Middle Ages great parts of England, now dotted over
with big towns, were covered with forest land. Wolves roamed in the
woods, and the fighting of some wild animals and the taming of others
formed a most important part of people's lives. The same thing was,
of course, the case in other countries. So familiar were people in
those days with animals that they thought of them almost as human
beings and believed that they had their own languages. It was people
who believed these things who made up many of the old fairy tales
about animals--stories like "Red Riding Hood" and the "Three Bears."

We often say that we are "as hungry as a wolf;" but we who have never
seen wolves except behind the bars of their cages at the Zoological
Gardens do not know how hungry a wild wolf can be. Those, however, who
first used this expression thought of the lean and hungry wolves who
prowled round the farms and cottages in the hard winter weather,
driven by starvation to men's very doors. We also have the expression,
"a wolf in sheep's clothing." By this we mean a person who is really
dangerous and harmful, but who puts on a harmless and gentle manner to
deceive his victim.

Another use of the word _wolf_ is as a verb, meaning to eat in a very
quick and greedy manner, as we might imagine a hungry wolf would do,
and as our forefathers knew by experience that they did do. Most of
the people who use the names of the wolf and the fox in these ways do
not know anything of the habits of these animals, but the expressions
have become part of the common language.

The same thing is, of course, true about the lion, with which even our
far-off English ancestors had never to fight. But the lion is such a
fierce and magnificent animal that it naturally appeals to our
imagination, and we find numerous comparisons with it, chiefly in
poetical language. We say a soldier is as "brave as a lion," or
describe him as a "lion in the fight."

A less complimentary comparison is an expression we often hear, "as
stubborn as a mule." Only a few of the people who use this expression
can have had any experience of the stubbornness of mules. Sometimes a
stubborn person is described quite simply as a "mule." Another
compliment of the same sort is to call a person who seems to us to be
acting stupidly a "donkey."

We may say a person is as "greedy as a pig," or describe him with
disgust as a "pig," which may mean either that they are very greedy or
that they are behaving in a very ungracious or unmannerly way. A more
common description of a person of this sort is "a hog." Every one has
heard of the "road hogs," who drive their motors regardless of other
people's convenience or safety; and of the "food hogs," who tried to
store up food, or refused to ration themselves, and so shortened other
people's supplies of food in the Great War.

Other common expressions comparing people with animals are--"sulky as
a bear," "gay as a lark," "busy as a bee." We might also call a cross
person a "bear," but should not without some explanation call a person
a "lark" or a "bee."

We may say a person "chatters like a magpie," or we may call him or
her a "magpie." A person who talks without thinking, merely repeating
what other people have said, is often called a "parrot."

Sometimes names of common animals or birds used to describe people are
complimentary, but more often they are not. It seems as though the
people who made these metaphors were more eloquent in anger than in
love. A very nice child will be described by its friends as a "little
duck." A mischievous child may also be described good-temperedly as a
"monkey;" but there are far more words of abuse taken from the names
of animals than more or less amiable words like these.

A bad-tempered woman is described as a "vixen," or female fox; a lazy
person as a "drone," or the bee which does no work. A stupid person
may be called a "sheep" or a "goose" (which is not quite so
insulting). _Dog_, _hound_, _cur_, and _puppy_ are all used as words
of abuse; and contempt for some one who is regarded as very
mean-spirited is sometimes shown by describing such a person as a
"worm," or worse, if possible, a "reptile." A "bookworm," on the other
hand, the name of a little insect which lives in books and eats away
at paper and bindings, is applied to people who love books in another
way--great readers--and is, of course, not at all an uncomplimentary

A foolish person who has been easily deceived in some matter is often
described as a "gull," or is said to have been "gulled." _Gull_ is
now the name of a sea-bird, but in Early English it was used to
describe any young bird, and from the idea that it is easy to deceive
such youngsters came the use of the word to describe foolish people.

Another name of a bird used with almost the opposite meaning is
_rook_. This name is given to people who are constantly cheating
others, especially at card games. It was earlier used, like _gull_, to
describe the person cheated. It then came to be used as a verb meaning
"to cheat," and from this was used to describe the person cheating
instead of the person cheated.

Other names of birds not quite so common used to describe stupid
people are _dotterel_ and _dodo_. The dotterel is a bird which is very
easily caught, and it was from this fact that it got its name, which
comes from _dote_, to be "silly" or "feeble-minded." When the name of
the bird is used to describe a silly person, the word is really, as an
interesting writer on the history of words says, turning "a complete
somersault." The same is the case with _dodo_, which is also used, but
not so often, to describe a stupid person. This bird also got its name
from a word which meant "foolish." It comes from the Portuguese word
_doudo_, which means "simpleton."

We have a few verbs also taken from the names of animals and birds. We
say a person "apes" another when he tries to imitate him. This word
comes, of course, from the fact that the ape is always imitating any
action performed by other people.

A person who follows another persistently is said to "dog" his steps.
This expression comes, of course, from the fact of dogs following
their masters. Another expression is to "hound" a person to do
something, by which we mean persecute him. This comes from the idea of
a hound tracking its victim down. Another of these words which has the
idea of persecution is _badger_. When some one constantly talks about
a subject which is unpleasant to another, or continually tries to
persuade him to do something against his will, he is said to be
"badgering" him. The badger is an animal which burrows into the ground
in winter, and dogs are set to worry it out of its hiding-place. The
badger is the victim and not the persecutor, as we might think from
the use of the verb.

The verb _henpeck_, to describe the teasing of her husband by a
disagreeable wife, comes, of course, from the idea of the continual
pecking of a hen.

Many common articles are named after animals which they resemble in
some way. A "ram" is an instrument, generally of wood, used to drive
things into place by pressure. In olden days war-ships used to have a
"battering-ram," or projecting beak, at their prow, with which to
"ram" other vessels. The Romans called such a beak an _aries_, which
is the Latin for "ram," a male sheep. This was probably from the habit
of rams butting an enemy with their horns. The Romans often had the
ends of their battering-rams carved into the shape of the head of a
ram. A "ramrod" gets its name from the same idea. It is an instrument
for pressing in the ammunition when loading the muzzle of a gun.

The word "ram" has now several more general uses. We speak of a person
"ramming" things into a drawer or bag when we mean pushing them
hastily and untidily into too small a place. Or a man may "ram" his
hat down on his head. Again, we may have a lesson or unpleasant fact
"rammed" into us by some one who is determined to make the subject
clear whether we want to hear about it or not. And all this comes from
the simple idea of the ram butting people whom it considers

More commonplace instruments having animals' names are the
"clothes'-horse" and "fire-dogs."

We have other words, which we should not guess to be from animals'
names, but which really are so. We say that a person who is always
changing his mind, and wanting first one thing and then another, is
"capricious." Or we speak of a curious or unreasonable desire as a
"caprice." These words really come from the Latin name for a
goat--_caper_. The mind of the capricious person skips about just like
a goat. At least that is what the word _capricious_ literally says
about him. The word _caper_, meaning to "jump about playing tricks,"
comes from the Latin word _capra_, a "she-goat."

The word _coward_ comes from the name of an animal, but _not_ the cow.
In a famous French story of the Middle Ages, in which all the
characters are animals, the "Roman de Renard," the hare is called
_couard_, and it is from this that the word _coward_ ("one who runs
away from danger") comes.

All these words from the names of animals take us back, then, to the
days when every man was a kind of naturalist. In those early days,
when town life hardly existed, everybody knew all about animals and
their habits. Their conversation was full of this sort of thing. And
so it is that in hundreds of our words which we use to-day, without
thinking of the literal meaning at all, we have a picture of the lives
of our ancestors preserved.

We have, too, words taken from the names of some animals which never
existed at all. The writers of the Middle Ages told many tales or
fables of animals and monsters which were purely imaginary, but in
which the people of those days firmly believed. We sometimes hear
people use the expression a "basilisk glare," which other people would
describe as a "look that kills," meaning a look of great severity or
displeasure. There is a little American lizard which zoologists call
the "basilisk," but this is not the basilisk from which this
expression comes. The basilisk which the people of the Middle Ages
imagined, but which never existed, was a monstrous reptile hatched by
a serpent from a cock's egg. By its breath or even its look it could
destroy all who approached it.

Another invention of the Middle Ages was the bird called the
"phoenix." We now use the word _phoenix_ to describe some one who
is unique in some good quality. A commoner way of expressing the same
idea would be that "there is no one like him." It was believed in the
Middle Ages that only one of these wonderful birds could exist in the
world at one time. The story was that the phoenix, after living
through five or six hundred years in the Arabian desert, prepared a
funeral pile for itself, and was burned to death, but rose again,
youthful and strong as ever, from the ashes.

In these words we are reminded once again of another side of the life
of our ancestors.



We have already seen something of the stories which the names of
places, old and new, can tell us. But the names of places themselves
often give us new words, and from these, too, we can learn many
interesting facts.

Many manufactured things, and especially woven cloths, silks, etc.,
are called by the name of the place from which they come, or from
which they first came. _Cashmere_, a favourite smooth woollen
material, is called after Cashmir, in India. _Damask_, the material of
which table linen is generally made, takes its name from Damascus; as
does _holland_, the light brownish cotton stuff used so much for
children's frocks and overalls, from Holland, and the rough woollen
material known as _frieze_ from Friesland. _Cambric_, the fine white
material often used for handkerchiefs, takes its name from Cambrai in
France, the place where it was first made. The word _cambric_,
however, came into English from _Kamerijk_, the Dutch name for
Cambrai. So the other fine material known as _lawn_ got its name from
Laon, another French town. Another fine material of this kind,
_muslin_, takes its name from Mussolo, a town in Mesopotamia, from
which this kind of material first came.

Another commoner kind of stuff is _fustian_, made of cotton, but
thick, with a short nap, and generally dyed a dark colour. The word
_fustian_ has also come to be used figuratively to describe a showy
manner of speaking or writing, or anything which tries to appear
better than it is. The word comes from Fustat, a suburb of Cairo.

A more substantial material, _tweed_, which is largely made in
Scotland, really takes its name from people pronouncing _twill_ badly;
but the form _tweed_ spread more quickly because people associated the
material with the country beyond the river Tweed.

Another kind of stuff which we generally associate with Scotland is
_tartan_, because this woollen stuff, with its crossed stripes of
different colours, is chiefly used for Scottish plaids and kilts,
especially of the Highland regiments. But the word _tartan_ does not
seem to be a Scottish word, and probably comes from _Tartar_, which
was formerly used to describe almost any Eastern people. Perhaps the
fact that Eastern peoples love bright colours caused this name to be
given to these bright materials, though there is nothing at all
Eastern in the designs of the Scottish tartans. Another material with
an Eastern name is _sarcenet_, or _sarsenet_, a soft, silky stuff now
chiefly used for linings.

Often in tales of olden times we read of people hiding behind the
"arras." This was a wall covering of tapestry, often hung sufficiently
far from the wall to leave room for a person to pass. The word _arras_
comes from Arras, a town in France, which was famous for its beautiful

We know the word _tabby_ chiefly as the name of a kind of striped cat,
but this use of the word came from the Old French word _tabis_, and
described a material with marks which the markings on a "tabby" cat
resemble. The French word came from the Arab word _utabi_, which
perhaps came from the name of a suburb of the famous city of Baghdad.

_Worsted_, the name of a certain kind of knitting-wool, comes from the
name of the town of Worstead, in Norfolk. The close-fitting woollen
garments worn by sailors and often by children are known as
_jerseys_--a word which is taken from the name of one of the Channel
Islands, Jersey. Sometimes, but not so commonly, they are called
_guernseys_, from the name of the chief of the other Channel Islands,
Guernsey. Another piece of wearing apparel, the Turkish cap known as a
_fez_, gets its name, perhaps, from Fez, a town in Morocco.

Besides woven stuffs, many other things are called by the names of the
places from which they come. _China_, the general name for very fine
earthenware, is the same name as that of the great Eastern country
which is famous for its beautiful pottery. Another kind of ornamented
earthenware is the Italian _majolica_, and this probably gets its name
from the island of Majorca; while _delf_ is the name of the glazed
earthenware made at Delft (which in earlier times was called "Delf"),
in Holland.

The beautiful leather much used for the bindings of books, _morocco_,
takes its name from Morocco, where it was first made by tanning
goatskins. It is now made in several countries of Europe, but it keeps
its old name. Another old kind of leather, but whose name is no longer
used, was _cordwain_, a Spanish leather for the making of shoes, which
took its name from Cordova in Spain. _Cordwainer_ was the old name for
"shoemaker," and is still kept in the names of shoemakers' guilds and

Many wines are simply called by the names (sometimes altered a little
through people mispronouncing them) of the places from which they
come. _Champagne_ is the wine of Champagne, _Burgundy_ of Burgundy,
_Sauterne_ of Sauterne, _Chablis_ of Chablis--all French wines. _Port_
takes its name from Oporto, in Portugal; and _sherry_, which used to
be called "sherris," comes from the name of Xeres, a Spanish town.

Many less well-known wines have merely the name of the place where
they are produced printed on the label, and they tend to be called by
these names--such as _Capri bianco Vesuvio_, etc. _Malmsey_, the old
wine in which the Duke of Clarence was supposed to have been drowned
when his murder was ordered by his brother, and which is also called
_malvoisie_, got its name from Monemvasia, a town in the peninsula of

Not only wine but other liquids are sometimes called after the places
from which they come. The oil known as _macassar_ comes from
Maugkasara, the name of a district in the island of Celebes. This oil
was at one time very much used as a dressing for the hair, and from
this we get the name _antimacassar_ for the coverings which used to be
(and are sometimes still) thrown over the backs of easy-chairs and
couches to prevent their being soiled by such aids to beauty.
_Antimacassar_ means literally a "protection against macassar oil,"
_anti_ being the Latin word for "against."

The tobacco known as _Latakia_ takes its name from the town called by
the Turks Latakia, the old town of Laodicea. (Laodicea also gives us
another common expression. We describe an indifferent person who has
no enthusiasm for anything as "a Laodicean," from the reproach to the
Church of the Laodiceans, in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, that
they were "neither cold nor hot" in their religion.)

Both the words _bronze_ and _copper_ come from the names of places.
_Bronze_ is from _Brundusium_, the ancient name of the South Italian
town which we now call Brindisi. The Latin name for this metal was
_aes Brundusinum_, or "brass of Brindisi." _Copper_ was in Latin _aes
Cyprium_, or "brass of Cyprus."

Some coins take their names from the names of places. The _florin_, or
two-shilling piece, takes its name from Florence. _Dollar_ is the same
word as the German _thaler_, the name of a silver coin which was
formerly called a _Joachimstaler_, from the silver-mine of
Joachimstal, or "Joachim's Dale," in Bohemia. The _ducat_, a gold coin
which was used in nearly all the countries of Europe in the Middle
Ages, and which was worth about nine shillings, got its name from the
duchy (in Italian, _ducato_) of Apulia, where it was first coined in
the twelfth century.

It was an Italian town, Milan, which gave us our word _milliner_. This
came from the fact that many fancy materials and ornaments used in
millinery were imported from Milan.

Many old dances take their names from places. We hear a great deal
nowadays of the "morris dances" which used to be danced in England in
olden times. But _morris_ comes from _morys_, an old word for
"Moorish." In the Middle Ages this word was used, like "Turk" or
"Tartar," to describe almost any Eastern people, and the name came,
perhaps, from the fact that in these dances people dressed up, and so
looked strange and foreign. The name of a very well-known dance, the
_polka_, really means "Polish woman." _Mazurka_, the name of another
dance, means "woman of Masovia." The old-fashioned slow dance known
as the _polonaise_ took its name from Poland, and was really a Polish
dance. The well-known Italian dance called the _tarantella_ took its
name from the South Italian town Tarento.

The word _canter_, which describes another kind of movement, comes
from Canterbury. _Canter_ is only the short for "Canterbury gallop,"
an expression which was used to describe the slow jogging pace at
which many pilgrims in the Middle Ages rode along the Canterbury road
to pray at the famous shrine of St. Thomas Becket in that city.

Several fruits take their names from places. The _damson_, which used
in the Middle Ages to be called the "damascene," was called in Latin
_prunum damascenum_, or "plum of Damascus." The name _peach_ comes to
us from the Late Latin word _pessica_, which was a bad way of saying
"Persica." _Currants_ used to be known as "raisins of Corauntz," or
Corinth raisins.

_Parchment_ gets its name from Pergamum, a city in Asia Minor.
_Pistol_ came into English from the Old French word _pistole_, and
this came from an Italian word, _pistolese_, which meant "made at
Pistoja." We do not think of _spaniels_ as foreign dogs; but the name
means "Spanish," having come into English from the Old French word
_espagneul_, with that meaning.

A derivation which it would be even harder to guess is that of the
word _spruce_. We now use this word to describe a kind of leather, a
kind of ginger beer, and a variety of the fir tree, and also in the
same sense as "spick and span." The word used to be _pruce_, and meant

The name of the famous London fish-market, _Billingsgate_, has long
been used to mean very violent and abusive language supposed to
resemble the scoldings of the fishwomen in the market.

Another word describing a certain kind of speaking, and which also
comes from the name of a place, is _bunkum_. When a person tells a
story which we feel sure is not true, or tells a long tale to excuse
himself from doing something, we often say it is all "bunkum." This
word comes from the name of the American town of Buncombe, in North
Carolina, and came into use through the member for Buncombe in the
House of Representatives insisting on making a speech just when every
one else wanted to proceed with the voting on a bill. He knew that he
had nothing of importance to say, but explained that he must make a
speech "for Buncombe"--that is, so that the people of Buncombe, who
had elected him, might know that he was doing his duty by them. And so
the expression _bunkum_ came into use.

Another word which may go with these, because it also begins with the
letter _b_, is _bedlam_. We describe a scene of great noise and
confusion, as when a number of children insist on talking all
together, as a "perfect bedlam." The word _bedlam_ comes from
Bethlehem. In the Middle Ages there was a hospital in London kept by
monks of the Order of St. Mary of Bethlehem. In time this house came
to be known as "Bedlam," and as after a while the hospital came to be
an asylum for mad people, this name came to be used for any lunatic
asylum. From that it came to have its modern use of any great noise or

The sport of shooting pheasants is very English, and few people think
that the pheasant is a foreign bird, introduced into England, just as
in fact the turkey, which seems to belong especially to the English
Christmas, came to us from America. The _pheasant_ gets its name from
the river Phasis, in the Eastern country of Pontus. It may seem
peculiar that a bird coming from America should be called a _turkey_;
but we saw in an earlier chapter how vague the people of the fifteenth
and sixteenth centuries were about America. When Columbus reached the
shore of that continent, people thought he had sailed round by another
way to the "Indies." In nearly all European countries the turkey got
names which show that most people thought it came from India, or at
least from some part of the "Indies." Even in England it was called
for a time "cok off Inde." In Italy it was _gallina d'India_ (or
"Indian hen"). The modern French words for male and female turkeys
come from this mistake. In French the bird was at first known as
_pouille d'Inde_ (or "Indian fowl"). The name came to be shortened
into the one word _dinde_, and then, as people thought this must mean
the female turkey, they made a new word for the male, _dindon_.

But though so many words come from the names of places, and some of
these would not seem to do so at first sight, there are other words
which seem to come from place-names which do not do so at all.
_Brazil_ wood is found in large quantities in Brazil, but the wood is
not called after the country. On the contrary, the country is called
after the wood. This kind of wood was already used in Europe in the
twelfth century, and its name is found in several European languages.
When the Portuguese adventurers found such large quantities in this
part of South America they gave it the name of _Brazil_ from the wood.
The island of _Madeira_ got its name in the same way, this being the
word for "timber," from the Latin word _materia_.

Again, guinea-pigs do not come from Guinea, on the west coast of
Africa, though guinea-fowls do so. Guinea-pigs really come from
Brazil. The name _guinea-pig_ was given to these little animals
because, when the sailors brought them home, people thought they had
come from Africa. But in the seventeenth century a common voyage for
ships was to sail from English or other European ports to the west
coast of Africa, where bands of poor negroes were seized or bought,
and carried over the Atlantic to be sold as slaves in the American
"plantations." The ships naturally did not come home empty, but often
people were not very clear as to whether the articles they brought
back came from Africa or America.

Again, _India ink_ comes, not from India, but from China. _Indian
corn_ comes from America. _Sedan chairs_ had nothing to do with Sedan
in France, but probably take their name from the Latin verb _sedere_,
"to sit."

In these words, as in many others, we can see that it is never safe to
_guess_ the derivation of words. Many of the old philologists used to
do this, and then write down their guesses as facts. This caused a
great deal of extra work for modern scholars, who will not, of course,
accept any "derivation" for a word until they have clear proof that it
is true.



Everybody who has thought at all about our ways of speech must have
noticed that we are all constantly saying things in a way which is not
literally true. We say a child is a "sunbeam in the house;" but, of
course, we only mean that she is gay and happy, and cheers every one
up by her merriment. Or we describe some one as a "pearl among women,"
meaning that by her splendid qualities she is superior to most women
as a pearl is to common stones.

Or, again, we may read in the newspaper that a statesman "spoke with
sudden fire;" by which, of course, we understand that in the course of
a calm speech he suddenly broke out passionately into words which
showed how keenly he felt on the subject of which he was speaking.

Our language is full of this kind of speaking and writing, which is
called "metaphorical." The word metaphor comes from two Greek words
meaning "to carry over." In "metaphorical" speech a name or
description of one thing is transferred to another thing to which it
could not apply in ordinary commonplace language.

By means of metaphors we express more vividly and strikingly our
feelings on any subject. We draw our metaphors from many different
sources. Many of them naturally come from Nature, for the facts of
Nature are all around us. We speak of a "sea of trouble" when we feel
that the spirit is overwhelmed by sadness so great that it suggests
the vastness of the sea swallowing up all that it meets. Or we speak
of a "storm of anger," because what takes place in a person's soul in
such a state is similar in some way to the confusion and force of a
storm in Nature. Again, an expression like a "torrent of words" is
made possible by our familiarity with the quick pouring forth of water
in a torrent. By this expression, of course, we wish to suggest a
similar quick rushing of words. Other expressions of this kind are "a
wave of anguish," the "sun of good fortune," and there are hundreds of
which every one can think.

Another source from which many metaphors have come is war, which has
given men some of the most vivid action possible to humankind. Thus we
speak of "a war of words," of a person "plunging into the fray," when
we mean that he or she joins in a keen argument or quarrel. Or we
speak more generally of the "battle of life," picturing the troubles
and difficulties of life as the obstacles against which soldiers have
to fight in battle. Shakespeare has the expression, "the slings and
arrows of outrageous fortune."

We have a great many metaphorical expressions taken from painting,
sculpture, and other arts. Thus we speak of "moulding" one's own life,
picturing ourselves as sculptors, with our lives as the clay to be
shaped as we will. Shakespeare has a similar metaphor,--

    "There's a divinity which shapes our ends,
    Rough-hew them how we will."

We may, he says, roughly arrange our way of life, but the final result
belongs to a greater artist--God.

Again, we speak of "building our hopes" on a thing, of "moulding" a
person's character, of the "canvas of history," imagining history as a
picture of things past. We speak of a person describing something very
enthusiastically as "painting it in glowing colours," and so on. We
also describe the making of new words as "coining them."

But not only are the sentences we make full of metaphors, but most of
our words--all, in fact, except the names of the simplest things--are
really metaphors themselves. The first makers of such words were
speaking "in metaphor," as we should say now; but when the words
passed into general use this fact was not noticed.

A great many of the metaphors found in words are the same in many
languages. Many of them are taken from agriculture, which is, of
course, after hunting, the earliest occupation of all peoples. We can
easily think of many words now used in a general sense which
originally applied to some simple country practice. We speak of being
"goaded" to do a thing when some one persuades or threatens or
irritates us into doing it. But a _goad_ was originally a spiked stick
used to drive cattle forward. The word _goad_, then, as we use it now,
is a real metaphor.

Again, we speak of our feelings being "harrowed." The word _harrow_
first meant, and still means, the drawing of a frame with iron teeth
(itself called a _harrow_) over ploughed land to break up the clods.
From this meaning it has come to have the figurative meaning of
wounding or ruffling the feelings.

Another word connected with agriculture which has passed into a
general sense is _glean_. We may now speak of "gleaning" certain facts
or news, but to glean was originally (and still means in its literal
sense) to gather the ears of corn remaining after the reapers have got
in the harvest.

We speak of a nation groaning under the "yoke" of a foreign tyrant, or
again of the "yoke" of matrimony, and in the Bible we have the text,
"My yoke is easy." In these and in many other cases the word _yoke_ is
used figuratively to denote something weighing on the spirit; but the
original use of _yoke_, and again one which remains, was to name the
wooden cross-piece fastened over the necks of two oxen, and attached
to a plough or wagon which they have to draw.

The word _earn_ reminds us of a time when the chief way of earning
money or payment of any kind was field-labour; for this word, which
means so many things now, comes from an old Teutonic word meaning
field-labour. The same word became in German _ernte_, which means

Another common word with somewhat the same meaning as _earn_ is
_gain_; and this, again, takes us back to a time when our early
ancestors won their profits by the grazing of their flocks. The word
_gain_ came into English from an Old French word, but this word in its
turn came from a Teutonic word meaning to graze or pasture. The first
people who used the word _earn_ for other ways of getting payment than
field-labour, and the word _gain_ in a general sense, were really
making metaphors.

Some of our commonest words take us back to a time before our
ancestors even settled down to cultivate the land, or perhaps even
before the days when they had learned to tame and give pasturage to
their flocks. Some of our simplest words contain the idea of
_travelling_ or _wandering_. The word _fear_, which would not seem to
have anything to do with journeying, comes from the same root-word as
_fare_, the Old English word for "travel." Probably it came to be used
because people travelling through the wild forests and swamps of
Europe in those far-off days found much to terrify them, and so the
word _fear_ was made, containing this idea of moving from place to
place. But again this was a metaphor. Until after the Norman Conquest
the word _fear_ meant a sudden or terrible happening. Only later it
came to mean the feeling which such an event or the expectation of it
would cause.

We may become tired in mind or body from many causes; but when we say
we are "weary" we are literally saying that we have travelled far over
difficult ground, for the word _weary_ comes from an Old English word
meaning this.

Some of our words are really metaphors showing the effect which
different aspects of Nature had on the men who made them. When we say
we are astonished we do not mean that we are "struck by thunder," but
that is what the word literally means. It comes from the Latin word
_attonare_, which means this. The words _astound_ and _stun_ contain
the same hidden metaphor, which we use in a plainer way when we say we
are "thunder-struck," meaning that we are very much surprised.

In the Middle Ages people believed that the stars had a great effect
on the lives of men. If the stars were in a certain position at the
time of a person's birth, he would be lucky all his life; if in
another, he was doomed to unhappiness. From this belief we still use
the expression "born under a lucky star" to describe a person who
seems always to be fortunate. But the same metaphor is contained in
single words. We speak of an unfortunate enterprise as "ill-starred,"
and the metaphor is clear. But when the newspapers speak of a railway
"disaster," very few people realize that they are speaking the
language of the mediæval astrologers, men who studied the fortunes of
nations and individuals from the stars. _Disaster_ literally means
such a misfortune as would be caused by adverse stars, and comes from
the Greek word for star, _astron_, and the Latin _dis_.

The words _jovial_ and _mercurial_, used to describe people of merry
and lively temper, are metaphors of the same kind. A person born under
the planet Jupiter (the star called after the Roman god Jupiter or
Jove) was supposed to be of a merry disposition, and a person born
when the planet Mercury was visible in the heavens was expected to be
lively and ready-witted. When we use these words now to describe
people, we do not, of course, mean that they were born under any
particular star, but the words are metaphors which literally do mean

The word _auspicious_ comes from a similar source. We speak of an
"inauspicious" undertaking, meaning one which seems destined to be
unlucky. But really what the word _inauspicious_ says is that the
"auspices are against" the undertaking. And this takes us back to
Roman times, when no important thing was done in the state without the
magistrates "taking the auspices." This they did from observing the
flight of certain birds. In war the commander-in-chief of the Roman
armies alone had the right to "take the auspices." We should think
such a proceeding very foolish now, but in the words _auspicious_ and
_inauspicious_ we are literally saying that the auspices have been
favourable or unfavourable.

One of the common practices of the scholars who studied astrology and
other sciences in the Middle Ages was the search for the philosopher's
stone, which they believed had the power of giving eternal youth. They
would melt metals in pots for this purpose. These pots were called by
the Old Latin name of _test_. From this word we now have the modern
word _test_, used in the sense of _trial_--another metaphor from the
Middle Ages.

Many common English words are really metaphors made from old English
sports, such as hunting and hawking. It is curious to think how these
words are chiefly used to-day by people who know nothing of these
pastimes, while the people who made the words were so familiar with
them that they naturally expressed themselves in this way. We speak of
a person being in another's "toils," when we mean in his "power." The
word _toils_ comes from the French _toiles_, meaning "cloths," and
also used for the nets put round part of a wood, in which birds are
being preserved for shooting, to prevent their escaping. The
expression to "turn" or be "at bay," by which we mean that there is no
chance of escape, but that the person in such a situation must either
give in or fight, comes from hunting. The hare or the fox is said to
be "at bay" when it comes to a wall or other object which prevents its
running farther, and so turns and faces its pursuers. _Bay_ is the
deep barking of the hounds.

The word _crestfallen_, by which we mean looking ashamed and
depressed, comes from the old sport of cock-fighting. The bird whose
crest (or tuft of hair on the head) drooped after the fight was
naturally the one which had been beaten. The word _pounce_ comes from
hawking, _pounces_ being the old word for a hawk's claws. The word
_haggard_, which now generally means worn and sometimes a little
wild-looking through grief or anxiety, was originally the name given
to a hawk caught, not, like most hawks used for hawking, when it was
quite young, but when it was already grown up. Such a hawk would
naturally have a wild look, and would never become so tame as the
birds caught young.

Several words meaning to entice a person come from fowling. We speak
of persons being "decoyed" when we mean that they are deceived into
going to some dangerous place. The person who entices them away is
called a "decoy;" but the first use of the word was to describe a duck
trained to induce other ducks to fly or walk into nets laid over ponds
by trappers. Another word of this kind is _allure_, which means to
persuade a person to do something by making it seem very attractive.
This word really means to bring a person (originally an animal) to
the "lure" or "bait" prepared to catch him.

The word _trap_, which may now mean to show a person to be guilty by a
trick, or to put him in the wrong in some way, is a metaphorical use.
The word literally means to catch an animal in a trap.

Many words contain metaphors drawn from the older and simpler trades.
We speak of a thing being "brand-new"--that is, as new as though just
stamped with a "brand" or iron stamp. Another expression which has
changed its meaning a little with time used to have exactly the same
meaning. We now say a person looks "spick and span" when he or she is
very neatly dressed. Formerly the expression was "spick and span
new"--that is, as new as a spike (or spoon) just made or a chip newly
cut. We may safely say that very few people who now use the expression
"spick and span" have any idea of what it means literally. The
metaphor is well hidden, but it is there.

Another metaphor, connected with metals and coins, is contained in the
word _sterling_. We speak of "sterling qualities" or a "sterling
character" in praising people for being straightforward and truthful,
and not boastful. But the expression originally applied only to metals
and coins. Sterling gold or silver is gold or silver of a certain
standard of purity and not mixed with too much of any base metal.

Even the art of the baker has given us a word with a hidden metaphor.
We speak of sending out another "batch" of men to the front; but
_batch_ originally meant, and still means, the loaves of bread
produced at one baking. It is now used generally to describe a number
of things coming together or in a set.

The butcher's shop has given us the word _shambles_, by which we now
mean a place of slaughter. Thus we speak of a terrible battlefield as
a "shambles." This metaphor is really due to a mistake. People came to
think that a shambles was a singular noun meaning slaughter-house, or
place where cattle were killed; but really the shambles were the
benches on which the meat was spread for sale.

We speak of a person being the "tool" of another, and this is a
metaphor taken from the general idea of work. The "tool" is merely
used by the other person for some purpose of his own, just as a
workman uses his tools. The greatest poem, or book, or picture of a
poet, writer, or painter is often described as a "masterpiece." This
word now means a "splendid piece of work," but in the Middle Ages a
"masterpiece" was a piece of work by which a person working at a trade
showed himself sufficiently good to be allowed to be a "master."
Before that he was a "journeyman," and worked for a master himself,
and, earlier still, an apprentice merely learning his trade. We often
now use the expression to try one's "'prentice hand" on a thing when
we mean that we are going to do a thing for the first time.

The commonest actions have naturally given us most metaphorical words,
for these were the actions of which the word-makers were most easily
reminded. We speak of our passions or emotions being "kindled," taking
the metaphor from the common action of lighting a fire.

The two words _lord_ and _lady_ contain very homely metaphors. The
lord was the "loaf-keeper," in Old English _hlaford_, the person on
whom the household depended for their food. The lady might even make
the bread, and often did so; and the word lady comes from
_hlæfdige_--_dig_ being the Old English word for _knead_.

The common word _maul_ may mean to beat and bruise a person, but it
means more often merely to handle something carelessly and roughly.
Literally it means "to hit with a hammer," and comes from _maul_ or
_mall_, the name of a certain very heavy kind of hammer; so that when
a child is told not to "maul" a book, it is literally being told not
to hit it with a heavy hammer.

We have made many metaphorical words from joining together two Latin
words and making a new meaning. We speak of a person having an
"obsession" about something when he is always thinking of one thing.
But the word _obsession_ comes from the Latin word _obsidere_, "to
besiege;" and so in the word _obsession_ the constant thought is
pictured as continually trying to gain entrance into the mind. We use
the word _besiege_ in the same metaphorical sense. We speak of being
"besieged" with questions, and so on.

Another word used now most often metaphorically comes also from this
idea of siege warfare. In all fortified places there are holes at
intervals along the walls of defence, through which the defenders may
shoot at the attackers. These are called "loop-holes." This word is
now used much oftener in a figurative sense than to describe the
actual thing. When two persons are arguing and one has plainly shown
the other to be wrong, we say he has "not a loophole" of escape from
the other's reasoning. Or if a person objects very much to doing
something, and makes many excuses, every one of which is shown to be
worthless, we again say he has "no loophole for escape."

Every child has heard of the Crusades, in which the nobles and knights
and soldiers of the Middle Ages went to fight against the Turks to win
back the Holy Sepulchre. These wars were called "crusades," from the
cross which the Crusaders wore as badges. The word was made from the
Latin word _crux_, which means "cross." But _crusade_ has now become a
general word. We speak of a "temperance crusade," of a "peace
crusade," and so on. The word has come to have the general meaning of
efforts made by people for something which they believe to be good;
but literally every person who works for such a "crusade" is a knight
buckling on his armour, signed with the cross, and sallying forth to
the East.

This word _sally_ also comes from siege warfare. A "sally" means a
rush of defenders from a besieged place, attempting to get past the
besiegers by taking them by surprise. It also has the more general
meaning of an excursion, such as the going forth to a crusade. It
means literally a "leaping out," and comes from the Latin word
_salire_, "to leap." The word _sally_ is also used to mean a sudden
lively remark generally rather against some person or thing. It is
interesting to notice that the fish salmon also probably takes its
name from this Latin word meaning "to leap."

Any child with a dictionary can find for himself many hidden metaphors
in the commonest words; and he will learn a great deal and amuse
himself at the same time.



There is one group of metaphorical words which is specially
interesting for the stories of the past which they tell us if we
examine into their meaning. Many names of ancient tribes and nations,
and some names of modern peoples, have come to be used as general
words; but the new meanings they have now tell us what other peoples
have thought of the nations bearing these names in history.

One of the best things that can be said about a boy or a girl is that
he or she is "frank," by which we mean open and straightforward. The
Franks were, of course, the Teutonic tribe which conquered Gaul (the
country we now call France) in the sixth century. Unlike the English
when they conquered the Britons, the Franks mixed with the Gauls and
the Roman population which they conquered; but for a long time the
Franks were the only people who were altogether free. From this fact
the word _frank_ came into use, meaning "free." A "frank" person is
one who speaks out freely and without restraint.

The name _Frank_ has given us a word with a very pleasant meaning, but
this was not the case with all the Teutonic tribes which broke in upon
the Roman Empire. A person who is very uncivilized in his manners is
sometimes called a "Goth." The word is often especially used to
describe a person who does not appreciate pictures and books and works
of art. Sometimes architects will pull down beautiful old buildings to
make place for new, and the people who appreciate beautiful things
describe them as "Goths." More often, perhaps, the word _Vandal_ is
used to describe such people. The Goths and Vandals were two of the
fiercest and most barbaric of the German tribes which overran the
Roman Empire from the third to the fifth century. They showed no
respect for the beautiful buildings and the great works of art which
were spread over the empire. They robbed and burned like savages, and
in a few years destroyed many of the beautiful things which had been
made with so much care and skill by the Greek and Roman artists. So
deep an impression did their destructiveness make on the world of that
time that their names have been handed down through sixteen centuries,
and are used to-day in the unpleasant sense of wilful destroyers of
beautiful things.

The words _barbarian_ and _barbarous_ are used in the same way. We
describe a child who behaves in a rough way as "a little barbarian,"
or a grown-up person without ordinary good manners as "a mere
barbarian." And the word _barbarous_ has an even worse meaning. It is
used to describe very coarse, uncivilized behaviour; but most often it
has also the sense of cruelty as well as coarseness. Thus we speak of
the barbarous behaviour of the Germans in Belgium. But when the word
_barbarous_ was first used it meant merely "foreign."

To the Greeks there were only two classes of people--Greeks, and
non-Greeks or "barbarians." The name _barbarian_ meant a bearded man,
and came from the Greek word _barbaros_. The Greeks were clean-shaven,
and distinguished themselves from the "bearded" peoples who knew
nothing of Greek civilization. The Romans conquered Greece, and
learned much from its civilization. To them all who were not Greeks or
Romans were "barbarians." Some Roman writers, like Cicero, use the
word in the modern sense of unmannerly or even savage, but this was
not a common use. St. Paul was a Roman citizen, for he belonged to
Tarsus, a city in Asia Minor which had been given full Roman rights;
but he was a Greek by birth, and he uses the word in the Greek way. He
speaks of all men being equal according to the Christian religion,
saying, "There is neither Greek nor ... barbarian, bond nor free."

The word _slave_, again, contains in itself whole chapters of European
history. It comes from the word _Slav_. The Slavs are the race of
people to which the Russians, Poles, and many other nations in the
East of Europe belong. The Great War has been partly fought for the
freedom of the small Slav nations, of which Serbia is one. The Slavs
have a long history of oppression and tyranny behind them. They have
been subject to stronger nations, such as the Turks, and, in Hungary,
the Magyars. The first "slaves" in mediæval Europe belonged to this
race, and the word "slave" is only another form of _Slav_. The word
gives us an idea of the impression which the misfortunes of the Slavs
made on the people of the Middle Ages.

The words _Turk_ and _Tartar_ have almost the opposite meaning to
_slave_ when they are used in a general sense. We call an unmanageable
baby a "young Turk," and in this expression we have the idea of all
the trouble the Turks have given the people of Europe since they
swarmed in from the East in the twelfth century. The word _Turk_ in
this sense is now generally used amusingly to describe a troublesome
child; but a grown-up person with a very quick temper or very
difficult to get on with is often described also, chiefly in fun, as a
"Tartar." Tartar is the name of the race of people to which the Turks,
Cossacks, and several other peoples belong. The name by which they
called themselves was _Tatar_; but Europeans changed it to _Tartar_,
from the Latin word _Tartarus_, which means "hell." This gives us some
idea of the impression these fierce people made on mediæval Europe--an
impression which is kept in memory by the present humorous use of the

It is chiefly Eastern peoples whose names have passed into common
words meaning fierce and cruel people. Our fairy tales are full of
tales of "ogres." It is not quite certain, but it is probable that
this word comes from _Hungarian_. The chief people of Hungary are the
Magyars; but the first person who used the name _Hungarian_ in the
sense of "ogre" probably did not know this, but thought of them as
Huns, or perhaps Tartars, and therefore as very fierce, cruel people.
The first person who is known to have used it is Perrault, a French
writer of fairy tales in the seventeenth century.

The Great War has given us another of these national names used in a
new way. Many people referred to the Germans all through the war as
the "Huns." The Huns were half-savage people, who in the early Middle
Ages moved about in great hordes over Europe killing and burning. They
were at last conquered in East and West, and finally disappeared from
history. But their name remained as a synonym for cruelty. The Kaiser,
in an unfortunate speech, exhorted his soldiers to make themselves as
terrible as Huns; and when people heard of the ill-treatment of the
Belgians when their country was invaded at the beginning of the war,
they said that the Germans had indeed behaved like the Huns of long
ago. The name clung to them, and during the war, when people spoke of
the "Huns," they generally meant the Germans, and not the fierce,
half-savage little men who followed their famous chief Attila,
plundering and burning through Europe about fifteen centuries ago.

Another name with a somewhat similar meaning is _assassin_, which most
people would not guess to have ever been the name of a collection of
people. An assassin is a person who arranges beforehand to take some
one by surprise and kill him. But the original assassins were an
Eastern people who believed that the murder of people of a religion
other than their own was pleasing to their God. The Arabs first called
this sect by the name _hashshash_, which the scholars of the Middle
Ages translated into the Latin _assassinus_. The Arab name was given
because these people were great eaters of "hashish" or dry herbs.

The name _Arab_ itself has come to be used with a special meaning
which has nothing to do with the people whose name it is. A rough
little boy who spends most of his time in the streets is described as
a "street Arab," and this comes from the fact that we think of the
Arabs as a wandering people. The "street Arab" is a wanderer also, of
another sort.

Another name of a wandering people has also come to have a special
meaning in English. The French word for gipsy is _bohemien_, and from
this we have the English word _Bohemian_. When we say a person is "a
Bohemian," we mean that he lives in the way he really likes, and does
not care whether other people think he is quite respectable or not.
It was the novelist Thackeray who first used the word _Bohemian_ in
this sense.

_Bohemia_ is, of course, the name of a country in Germany, but it is
also used figuratively to describe the region or community in which
"Bohemian" or unconventional people live.

The word _gipsy_ itself is used to describe a very dark person, or
almost any kind of people travelling round the country in caravans.
But _gipsy_ really means "Egyptian." When the real gipsies first
appeared in England, in the sixteenth century, people thought they
came from Egypt, and so gave them this name.

Another name often given to very dark people is _blackamoor_, a name
by which negroes are sometimes described. This really means "Black
Moor," and shows us how confused the people who first used the word
were about different races of people. The Moors were a quite different
people from the negroes, being related to the Arabs. But to some
people every one who is not white is a "nigger." _Nigger_ comes, of
course, from _negro_.

The Moors inhabited a part of North-west Africa. It was also a North
African people, the Algerians, who gave us the word _Zouave_. Every
one has seen since the Great War began pictures of the handsome and
quaintly-dressed French soldiers called "Zouaves." Perhaps some
children wondered why they wore such a strange Eastern dress. It is
because the Zouave regiments, which are now chiefly composed of
Frenchmen, were originally formed from an Algerian mountain tribe
called the Zouaves--Algeria being a French possession. The name is
almost forgotten as that of a foreign tribe, but has become instead
the name of these light infantry French regiments.

The name of the most famous of Eastern nations now spread all over the
world, the Jews, has become a term of reproach. For hundreds of years
after the spread of Christianity over Europe the Jews were looked upon
as a wicked and hateful people. In many countries they were not
allowed to live at all; in others a portion of the towns was set apart
for them, and they were allowed to live there because they were useful
as money-lenders.

Naturally the Jews, persecuted and distrusted, made as much profit as
they could out of the people who treated them in this way. Perhaps
with the growth of their wealth they grew to love money for its own
sake. In any case, before long the Jews were looked upon as people who
were decidedly ungenerous in the matter of money. Everybody knows the
story of the Jew Shylock in Shakespeare's great play "The Merchant of
Venice." Nowadays a person who is not really a Jew is often described
contemptuously as a "Jew" if he shows himself mean in money matters;
and some people even use a slang expression, "to jew," meaning to
cheat or be very mean over a money affair.

Another name of a nation which stands for dishonesty of another sort
(and much more excusable) is _Gascon_. The Gascons are the natives of
Gascony, a province in the south of France. It is proverbial among
other Frenchmen that the Gascons are always boasting, and even in
English we sometimes use the word _Gascon_ to describe a great
boaster, while _gasconade_ is now a common term for a boastful story.

Another word which we use to describe this sort of thing is _romance_.
We often hear the expression, "Oh, he is only romancing," by which we
mean that a person is saying what is not true, inventing harmless
details to improve his story. The word _romance_ has now many
meanings, generally containing the idea of _imagination_. A person is
called "romantic" when he or she is full of imaginings of great deeds
and events. Or we say a person is a "romantic figure" when we mean
that from his looks or speech, or from some other qualities, he seems
fit for adventures.

But _romance_, from which we get romantic, was at first merely an
adjective used to describe the languages which are descended from the
Latin language, like French, Italian, and Spanish. In the Middle Ages
scholars wrote in Latin, but poets and taletellers began to write in
the language of the people--the _romance_ languages in France and
Italy. The tales of adventure and things which we should now call
"romantic" were written in the "romance" languages; and from being
used to describe the language, the word came to be used to describe
the kind of story contained in these poems and tales. Gradually the
words _romantic_ and _romance_ got the meaning which they have to-day.

We have seen in another chapter that we have a number of words taken
from the names of persons in ancient history. We have also a modern
and special use of words formed from the names of some of the ancient
nations. We saw that we use the word _Spartan_ to describe any very
severe discipline, or a person who willingly uses such discipline for

There are several other such names used in a more or less
complimentary way. We speak of "Roman" firmness, and every one who has
read Roman history will agree that this is a good use of the word. On
the other hand, we have the expression "Punic faith" to describe
treachery. The Romans had had many reasons for mistrusting their great
enemy, the Carthaginians, and they used this expression, _Fides
Punica_, which we have simply borrowed from the Latin.

We use the expression "Attic (or Athenian) salt" to describe a very
refined wit or humour. The Romans used the word _sal_, or "salt," in
this sense of _wit_, and their expression _sal Atticum_ shows the high
opinion they had of the Athenians, from whom, indeed, they learned
much in art and in literature. It is this same expression which we use
to-day, having borrowed and translated it also from the Latin.

We speak of a "Parthian shot" when some one finishes a conversation or
an argument with a sharp or witty remark, leaving no chance for an
answer. This expression comes from the story of the Parthians, a
people who lived on the shores of the Caspian Sea, and were famous as
good archers among the ancient nations.

The way in which the names of nations and peoples have taken on more
general meanings gives us many glimpses into history.



Since the earliest ages men have made war on one another, and we have
a great crowd of words, new and old, connected with war. Some of these
are very simple words, especially the names of early weapons; some are
more elaborate and more interesting in their derivation.

The chief of all weapons, the sword, has its simple name from the Old
English language itself, and so has the spear. But it was after the
Norman conquest of England that war became more elaborate, with
armoured knights and fortified towers, and nearly all the names
connected with war of this sort come to us from the French of that
time. The word _war_ itself comes from the Old French word _werre_.
_Battle_, too, comes from the French of this time; and so do _armour_,
_arms_, _fortress_, _siege_, _conquer_, _pursue_, _tower_, _banner_,
and many other words. All of these words came into French originally
from Latin. _Knight_, however, is an Old English word. The French word
for knight, _chevalier_, never passed into English, but from it we got
the word _chivalry_.

The great weapons of modern warfare are the gun and the bayonet. There
are, of course, many kinds of guns, small and large. Formerly it was
the fashion to call the big guns by the name of _cannon_, but in the
great European war this word has hardly been used at all. They are all
"guns," from the rifles carried by the foot soldiers to the Maxims and
the great howitzers which each require a company of men to serve them.
The word _cannon_ comes from the French _canon_, and is sometimes
spelt in this way in English too. It means "great tube."

The derivation of the word _gun_ is more interesting. Gunpowder was
not really discovered until the fifteenth century, but long before
this a kind of machine, or gun, for hurling great stones, or sometimes
arrows, had been used. These instruments were called by the Latin word
_ballista_ (for the Romans had also had machines of this sort), which
comes from the Greek word _ballo_, meaning "throw." In the Middle Ages
weapons of this sort were called by proper names, just as ships are
now. A common name for them was the woman's name _Gunhilda_, which
would be turned into _Gunna_ for short. It is probably from this that
we get the word _gun_. The most interesting of all the guns used in
the Great War has only a number for its name. It is the famous French
'75, and takes this name merely from a measurement.

The special weapon of the foot soldier, or infantryman, is the
bayonet. This is a short blade which the foot soldier fixes on the
muzzle of his rifle before he advances to an attack. In the trenches
his weapon is the rifle; before the order is given to go "over the
parapet"--that is, to climb out of the trenches, to run forward and
attack the enemy at close quarters--he "fixes his bayonet." The word
_bayonet_ probably comes from _Bayonne_, the name of a town in France.

The word _infantry_ itself, now used to describe regiments of foot
soldiers armed with the ordinary weapons, comes to us, like most of
our words connected with war, from the French. We have already seen
that the words of this sort which we borrowed in the Middle Ages were
Norman-French words descended from Latin. But after the use of
gunpowder in war became general there were many new terms; and as at
this time the Italians were the people who fought most, and wrote most
about fighting, many words relating to the methods of war after the
close of the Middle Ages were Italian words. It is true that we
learned them from the French, for the great writers on military
matters in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were Frenchmen. But
they borrowed many words from the Italian writers of the fifteenth
century. One of these words is _infantry_, which means a number of
junior soldiers or "infants"--the regiments of foot soldiers being
made up of young men, while the older and more experienced soldiers
made up the cavalry.

This, again, is a word which we borrowed from the French, and which
the French had borrowed from the Italians. _Cavalry_ is, of course,
the name for horse soldiers, and the Italian word _cavalleria_, from
which it comes, was itself derived from the Latin word _caballus_, "a
horse." The general weapon for a cavalryman is the "sabre," a sword
with a curved blade. This, again, comes to us from the French, but was
probably originally an Eastern word. It is quite common for officers,
in reckoning the number of men in an army, to speak of so many
"bayonets" and so many "sabres," instead of "infantry" and "cavalry."

Many of the words which people began to use familiarly during the
great European war first came into English in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries, a time when it seemed to be the ordinary state
of affairs for some, at least, of the European countries to be at war
with one another. _Bivouac_ is a word which was used a good deal in
descriptions of earlier wars. It is a German word, which came into
English at the time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) in Germany.
It means an encampment for a short time only (often for the night),
without tents. It plainly has not much connection with modern trench

Another word which came from the German at the same time may serve to
remind us that the German soldier of to-day is not very much unlike
his ancestors of three hundred years ago. The word _plunder_ was
originally a German word meaning "bed-clothes" or other household
furnishing. From the fact that so much of this kind of thing was
carried off in the fighting of this terrible war, the word came to
have its present sense of anything taken violently from its rightful
owner. It must be confessed that the word was also used a great deal
in the English Civil War, which was, of course, fought at the same
time as the end of the Thirty Years' War.

It was also in the English Civil War that we first find the word
_capitulation_, which now generally means to surrender on certain
conditions. Before this, _capitulation_ had more the meaning which it
still keeps in _recapitulation_. It meant an arrangement under
headings, and the word probably was transferred from describing the
terms of surrender to describing the surrender itself.

One of the many words connected with war which came into the English
language from the French in the seventeenth century was _parade_,
which means the showing off of troops, and came into French from an
Italian word which itself came from the Latin word _parare_, "to
prepare." Another of these words which has been much used in
descriptions of the battles of the Great War, and especially in the
"Battle of the Rivers" in the autumn of 1914, is _pontoon_. Pontoons
are flat-bottomed boats by means of which soldiers make a temporary
bridge across rivers, generally when the permanent bridges have been
destroyed by the enemy. The word is _ponton_ in French, and comes from
the Latin _pons_, "a bridge." Most words of this sort in French ending
in _on_ take the ending _oon_ in English. Thus _ballon_ in French
becomes _balloon_ in English. _Barracks_ also comes from the French
_baraque_, and the French had it from the Spanish or Italian _barraca_
or _baraca_; but no one knows whence these languages got the word.

The word _bombard_, also much used during the Great War, came into
English at the end of the seventeenth century from the French word
_bombarder_, which came from the Latin word _bombarda_, an engine for
throwing stones, and which in its turn came from the Latin word
_bombus_, meaning "hum." Even a stone hurled with great force through
the air makes a humming noise, and the "singing" of the bombs and
shells hurled through the air became a very familiar sound to the
soldiers who fought in the Great War. The word _bomb_, too, comes from
the French _bombe_.

The words _brigade_ and _brigadier_ also came from the French at this
time. So, too, did the word _fusilier_, a name which some British
regiments still keep (for example, the Royal Fusiliers), though they
are no longer armed with the old-fashioned musket known as the
_fusil_, the name of which also came from the French, which had it
from the Latin word _focus_, "a hearth" or "fire." It is curious how
the names of modern British regiments, not even carrying the weapons
from which they have their names, should take us back in this way to
the days of early Rome.

The word _patrol_, which was used very much especially in the early
days of the Great War, has an interesting origin. It may mean a small
body of soldiers or police sent out to go round a garrison, or camp,
or town, to keep watch; or, again, it may mean a small body of troops
sent on before an advancing army to "reconnoitre"--that is, to spy out
the land, the position of the enemy, etc. The word _patrol_ literally
means to "paddle in mud," for the French word, _patrouille_, from
which it came into English in the seventeenth century, came from an
earlier word with this meaning.

The word _campaign_, by which we mean a number of battles fought
within a certain time, and generally according to a plan arranged
beforehand, also came from the French word _campagne_ at the beginning
of the eighteenth century--a century of great wars and many campaigns.
The word was more used in those earlier wars than it is now, because
in those days the armies used practically never to fight in the
winter, and so each summer during a war had its "campaign." The
earlier meaning of the French word _campagne_, and one which it still
keeps besides this later meaning, is "open country," the kind of
country over which battles were generally fought.

_Recruit_ is another word which came into English from the French at
this time. It, again, is a word which has been used a great deal in
the European war. It came from the French word _recrue_, which also
means a newly-enlisted soldier. The French word _croître_, from which
_recrue_ came, was derived from the Latin word _crescere_, "to

All these words, we should notice, have now a figurative use. We speak
of "recruits" not only to the army, but to any society. Thus we may
say a person is a valuable "recruit" to the cause of temperance, etc.
A "campaign" can be fought not only on the field of battle, but
through newspapers, meetings, etc. It is in this sense that we speak
of the "campaign" for women's suffrage, etc.

Many words relating to the dress and habits of our soldiers have
curious origins. We say now quite naturally that a man is "in khaki"
when we mean that he is a soldier, because the peculiar yellow-brown
colour which is known as "khaki" is now the regular colour of the
uniform of the British soldier. In earlier days the British soldier
was generally a "redcoat," but in modern trench warfare it is so
important that the enemy should not be able to pick out easily the
position of groups of men in order to "shell" them, that the armies of
all nations use gray or brown or other dull shades. _Khaki_ is a word
which came into English through the South African War, when the policy
of clothing the soldiers in this way was first begun on a large scale.
It comes from a Hindu word, _khak_, which means "dust." The object of
this kind of clothing for our soldiers is that they shall not be
easily distinguished from the soil of the trenches and battle-fields.

When a soldier or officer or any other person who is generally in
uniform wears ordinary clothes we say he is "in mufti." This, again,
is an Arab word meaning "Mohammedan priest."

The soldiers in the Great War used many new words which became a
regular part of their speech. They were chiefly "slang," but it is
quite possible that some of them may pass into good English. We shall
see something of them in a later chapter.



Every child knows what a proverb is, though every child may not,
perhaps, be able to say in its own words just what makes a proverb. A
proverb has been defined as "a wise saying in a few words." At any
rate, if it is not always wise, the person who first said it and the
people who repeat it think it is. Most proverbs are very old, and take
us back, just as we saw that words formed from the names of animals
do, to the early days before the growth of large towns.

In those days life was simple, and people thought chiefly of simple
things. When they thought children or young persons were going to do
something foolish they gave them good advice, and tried to teach them
a little lesson from their own experience of what happened among the
common things around them.

A boy or a girl who was very enthusiastic about some new thing was
warned that "new brooms sweep clean." When several people were anxious
to help in doing one thing, they were pushed aside (just as they are
now) with the remark that "too many cooks spoil the broth." The people
who use this proverb now generally know very little about broth and
still less about cooking. They say it because it expresses a certain
truth in a striking way; but the first person who said it knew all
about cooks and kitchens, and spoke out of the fullness of her (it
must have been a woman) experience.

Again, a person who is discontented with the way in which he lives and
is anxious to change it is warned lest he jump "out of the frying-pan
into the fire." Again the wisdom comes from the kitchen. And we may
remark that these sayings are difficult to contradict.

But there are other proverbs which contain statements about birds and
animals and things connected with nature, and sometimes these seem
only half true to the people who think about them. We sometimes hear
it said of a person who is very quiet and does not speak much that
"still waters run deep." This is true in Nature. A little shallow
brook will babble along, while the surface of a deep pool will have
hardly a ripple on it. But a quiet person is not necessarily a person
of great character or lofty thoughts. Some people hardly speak at all,
because, as a matter of fact, they find nothing to say. They are
quiet, not because they are "deep," but because they are shallow.
Still, the proverb is not altogether foolish, for when people use it
about some one they generally mean that they think this particular
quiet person is one with so much going on in his or her mind that
there is no temptation to speak much. "Empty vessels make most sound"
is another of these proverbs which is literally true, but is not
always true when applied to people. A person who talks a great deal
with very little to say quite deserves to have this proverb quoted
about him or her. But there are some people who are great talkers just
because they are so full of ideas, and to them the proverb does not

Another of these nature proverbs, and one which has exasperated many a
late riser, is, "The early bird catches the worm." Many people have
inquired in their turn, "And what about the worm?" But the proverb is
quite true, all the same.

Again, "A rolling stone gathers no moss" is a proverb which has been
repeated over and over again with many a headshake when young people
have refused to settle down, but have changed from one thing to
another and roamed from place to place. And this is quite true. But we
may ask, "Is it a good thing for stones to gather moss?" After all,
the adventurous people sometimes win fortunes which they could never
have won if they had been afraid to move about. And the adventurous
people, too, win other things--knowledge and experience--which are
better than money. Of course the proverb is wise to a certain degree,
for mere foolish changing without any reason cannot benefit any one.
But things can gather _rust_ as well as moss by keeping still, and
this is certainly not a good thing.

"Where there's a will there's a way." So the old proverb says, and
this is probably nearly always true, except that no one can do what is
impossible. "Look before you leap" is also good advice for impetuous
people, who are apt to do a thing rashly and wonder afterwards whether
they have done wisely.

The most interesting thing about proverbs to the student of words is
that they are always made up of simple words such as early peoples
always used. But we go on repeating them, using sometimes words which
we should never choose in ordinary speech, and yet never noticing that
they are old-fashioned and quaint.

It is true that there are some sayings which are so often quoted that
they seem almost like proverbs. But a line of poetry or prose, however
often it may be quoted, is not a proverb if it is taken from the
writings of a person whom we know to have used it for the first time.
These are merely quotations. No one can say who was the first person
to use any particular proverb. Even so long ago as the days of the
great Greek philosopher Aristotle many proverbs which are used in
nearly every land to-day were ages old. Aristotle describes them as
"fragments of an elder wisdom."

Clearly, then, however true some quotations from Shakespeare and Pope
and Milton may be, and however often repeated, they are not proverbs.

    "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

This line expresses a deep truth, and is as simply expressed as any
proverb, but it is merely a quotation from Pope. Again,

    "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread"

is true enough, and well enough expressed to bear frequent quotation,
but it is not a "fragment of elder wisdom." It is merely Pope's
excellent way of saying that foolish people will interfere in delicate
matters in which wise people would never think of meddling. Here,
again, the language is not particularly simple as in proverbs, and
this will help us to remember that quotations are not proverbs. There
is, however, a quotation from a poem by Patrick A. Chalmers, a
present-day poet, which has become as common as a proverb:--

    "What's lost upon the roundabouts
      We pulls up on the swings."

The fact that this is expressed simply and even ungrammatically does
not, of course, turn it into a proverb.

Though many of the proverbs which are repeated in nearly all the
languages of the world are without date, we know the times when a few
of them were first quoted. In Greek writings we already find the
half-true proverb, "Rolling stones gather no moss;" and, "There's many
a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip," which warned the Greeks, as it
still warns us, of the uncertainty of human things. We can never be
sure of anything until it has actually happened. In Latin writings we
find almost the same idea expressed in the familiar proverb, "A bird
in hand is worth two in the bush"--a fact which no one will deny.

St. Jerome, who translated the Bible from Greek into Latin in the
fourth century and wrote many wise books besides, quotes two proverbs
which we know well: "It is not wise to look a gift horse in the
mouth," and, "Liars must have good memories." The first again deals,
like so many of the early proverbs, with the knowledge of animals. A
person who knows about horses can tell from the state of their mouths
much about their age, health, and general value. But, the proverb
warns us, it is neither gracious nor wise to examine too closely what
is given to us freely. It may not be quite to our liking, but after
all it is a present.

The proverb, "Liars must have good memories," means, of course, that
people who tell lies are liable to forget just what tale they have
told on any particular occasion, and may easily contradict themselves,
and so show that they have been untruthful. It is necessary, then, for
such a person, unless he wishes to be found out, to remember exactly
what lies he has told.

Many proverbs have remained in the English language, not so much for
the wisdom they contain as for the way in which they express it. Some
are in the form of a rhyme--as, "Birds of a feather flock together,"
and "East and west, home is best." These are always favourites.

Others catch the ear because of their alliteration; that is to say,
two or three of their words begin with the same letter. Examples of
this are: "Look before you leap." The proverb "A stitch in time saves
nine" has something of both these attractions, though it is not
exactly a rhyme. Other examples of alliteration in proverbs are:
"Delays are dangerous," "Speech is silvern, silence is golden."

A few proverbs are witty as well as wise, and these are, perhaps, the
best of all, since they do not, as a rule, exasperate the people to
whom they are quoted, as many proverbs are apt to do. Usually these
witty proverbs are metaphors.



Every child has some idea of what is meant by "slang," because most
schoolboys and schoolgirls have been corrected for using it. By slang
we mean words and expressions which are not the ordinary words for the
ideas which they express, but which are invented as new names or
phrases for these ideas, and are at first known and used only by a few
people who use them just among themselves. There are all kinds of
slang--slang used by schoolboys and schoolgirls in general, slang used
by the pupils of each special school, slang used by soldiers, a
different slang used by their officers, and even slang used by members
of Parliament.

The chief value of slang to the people who use it is that at first, at
any rate, it is only understood by the inventors and their friends.
The slang of any public school is continually changing, because as
soon as the expressions become known and used by other people the
inventors begin to invent once more, and get a new set of slang terms.
Sometimes a slang word will be used for years by one class of people
without becoming common because it describes something of which
ordinary people have no experience, and therefore do not mention.

The making of slang is really the making of language. Early men must
have invented new words just as the slang-makers do to-day. The
difference is that there are already words to describe the things
which the slang words describe. It may seem curious, then, that people
should trouble to find new words. The reason they do so is often that
they want to be different from other people, and sometimes because the
slang word is much more expressive than the ordinary word.

This is one reason that the slang of a small number of people spreads
and becomes general. Sometimes the slang word is so much better in
this way than the old word that it becomes more generally used than
it, and finds its way into the ordinary dictionaries. When this
happens it is no longer slang.

But, as a rule, slang is ugly or meaningless, and it is very often
vulgar. However common its use may become, the best judges will not
use such expressions, and they remain mere slang.

A writer on the subject of slang has given us two good examples of
meaningless and expressive slang. The people who first called
marmalade "swish" could have no reason for inventing the new name
except to seem odd and different from other people. _Swish_ is
certainly not a more expressive or descriptive word than _marmalade_.
The one means nothing, while the other has an interesting history
coming to us through the French from two old Greek words meaning
"apple" and "honey."

The expressive word which this writer quotes is _swag_, a slang word
for "stolen goods." There is no doubt that _swag_ is a much more
expressive word than any of the ordinary words used to describe the
same thing. One gets a much more vivid picture from the sentence, "The
thieves got off with the _swag_," than he would had the word _prize_
or even _plunder_ or _booty_ been used. Yet there is no sign that the
word _swag_ will become good English. Expressive as it is, there is a
vulgar flavour about it which would make people who are at all
fastidious in their language very unwilling to use it.

Yet many words and phrases which must have seemed equally vulgar when
first used have come to be accepted as good English. And in fact much
of our language, and especially metaphorical words and phrases, were
once slang. It will be interesting to examine some examples of old
slang which have now become good English.

One common form of slang is the use of expressions connected with
sport as metaphors in speaking of other things. Thus it is slang to
say that we were "in at the death" when we mean that we stayed to the
end of a meeting or performance. This is, of course, a metaphor from
hunting. People who follow the hounds until the fox is caught and
killed are "in at the death." Another such expression is to "toe the
mark." We say a person is made to "toe the line" or "toe the mark"
when he or she is subjected to discipline; but it is a slang phrase,
and only good English in its literal meaning of standing with the toes
touching a line in starting a race, etc., so that all may have an
equal chance.

We say a person has "hit below the belt" if we think he has done or
said something unfair in an argument or quarrel. This is a real slang
phrase, and is only good English in the literal sense in which it is
used in boxing, where it is against the rules to "hit below the belt."
The term "up to you," by which is expressed in a slang way that the
person so addressed is expected to do something, is a slang expression
borrowed from cards.

Even from these few examples we can see that there are various degrees
in slang. A person who would be content to use the expression "toe the
line" might easily think it rather coarse to accuse an opponent of
"hitting below the belt." There comes a time when some slang almost
ceases to be slang, and though good writers will not use it in
writing, quite serious people will use it in merely speaking. It has
passed out of the stage of mere slang to become a "colloquialism."

The phrases we have quoted from present-day sport when used in a
general sense are still for the most part slang; but many phrases
taken from old sports and games, and which must have been slang in
their time, are now quite good English and even dignified style. We
speak of "wrestling with a difficulty" or "parrying a thrust" (a
metaphor taken, of course, from fencing), of "winning the palm," and
so on, all of which are not only picturesque but quite dignified

A very common form of slang is what are called "clipped" words. Such
words are _gov_ for "governor," _bike_ for "bicycle," _flu_ for
"influenza," _indi_ for "indigestion," _rec_ for "recreation," _loony_
for "lunatic," _pub_ for "public house," _exam_ for "examination,"
_maths_ for "mathematics." All of these words are real slang, and most
of them are quite vulgar. There is no sign that any of them will
become good English. The most likely to survive in ordinary speech is
perhaps _exam_.

Yet we have numbers of short words which have now become the ordinary
names for certain articles, and yet which are only short forms of the
original names of those articles. The first man who said _bus_ for
"omnibus" must have seemed quite an adventurer. He probably struck
those who heard him as a little vulgar; but hardly any one now uses
the word _omnibus_ (which is in itself an interesting word, being the
Latin word meaning "for all"), except, perhaps, the omnibus companies
in their posters. Again, very few people use the full phrase
"Zoological Gardens" now. Children are taken to the _Zoo_. _Cycle_ for
"bicycle" is quite dignified and proper, though _bike_ is certainly
vulgar. In the hurry of life to-day people more frequently _phone_
than "telephone" to each other, and we can send a wire instead of a
"telegram" without any risk of vulgarity. The word _cab_ replaced the
more magnificent "cabriolet," and then with the progress of invention
we got the "taxicab." It is now the turn of _cab_ to be dropped, and
when we are in haste we hail a _taxi_. No one nowadays, except the
people who sell them, speaks of "pianofortes." They have all become
_pianos_ in ordinary speech.

The way in which good English becomes slang is well illustrated by an
essay of the great English writer Dean Swift, in the famous paper
called "The Tatler," in 1710. He, as a fastidious user of English, was
much vexed by what he called the "continual corruption of the English
tongue." He objected especially to the clipping of words--the use of
the first syllable of a word instead of the whole word. "We cram one
syllable and cut off the rest," he said, "as the owl fattened her mice
after she had cut off their legs to prevent their running away." One
word the Dean seemed especially to hate--_mob_, which, indeed, was
richer by one letter in his day, for he sometimes wrote it _mobb_.
_Mob_ is, of course, quite good English now to describe a disorderly
crowd of people, and we should think it very curious if any one used
the full expression for which it stands. _Mob_ is short for the Latin
phrase _mobile vulgus_, which means "excitable crowd."

Other words to which Swift objected, though most of them are not the
words of one syllable with which he declared we were "overloaded," and
which he considered the "disgrace of our language," were _banter_,
_sham_, _bamboozle_, _bubble_, _bully_, _cutting_, _shuffling_, and
_palming_. We may notice that some of these words, such as _banter_
and _sham_, are now quite good English, and most of the others have at
least passed from the stage of slang into that of colloquialism.

The word _bamboozle_ is still almost slang, though perhaps more common
than it was two hundred years ago, when Swift attacked it. Even now we
do not know where it came from. There was a slang word used at the
time but now forgotten--_bam_, which meant a trick or practical joke;
and some scholars have thought that _bamboozle_ (which, of course,
means "to deceive") came from this. On the other hand, it may have
been the other way about, and that the shorter word came from the
longer. The word _bamboozle_ shows us how hard it is for meaningless
slang to become good English even after a struggle of two hundred

We have seen how many slang words in English have become good English,
so that people use with propriety expressions that would have seemed
improper or vulgar fifty or ten or even five years ago. Other
interesting words are some which are perfectly good English as now
used, but which have been borrowed from other languages, and in those
languages are or were mere slang. The word _bizarre_, which we
borrowed from the French, and which means "curious," in a fantastic or
half-savage way, is a perfectly dignified word in English; but it must
have been a slang word at one time in French. It meant long ago in
French "soldierly," and literally "bearded"--that is, if it came from
the Spanish word _bizarra_, "beard."

Another word which we use in English has a much less dignified use in
French. We can speak of the _calibre_ of a person, meaning the quality
of his character or intellect; but in French the word _calibre_ is
only in ordinary speech applied to things. To speak of a "person of a
certain calibre" in French is very bad slang indeed.

Again, the word _fiasco_, which we borrowed from the Italian, and
which means the complete failure of something from which we had hoped
much, was at first slang in Italian. It was applied especially to the
failure of a play in a theatre. To break down was _far fiasco_, which
literally means "make a bottle." The phrase does not seem to have any
very clear meaning, but at any rate it is far removed from the
dignified word _fiasco_ as used in English.

The word _sack_ as used in describing the sack of a town in war is a
picturesque and even poetic word; but as it comes from the French
_sac_, meaning "pack" or "plunder," it is really a kind of slang.

On the other hand, words which belong to quite good and ordinary
speech in their own languages often become slang when adopted into
another. A slang word much used in America and sometimes in England
(for American expressions are constantly finding their way into the
English language) is _vamoose_, which means "depart." _Vamoose_ comes
from a quite ordinary Mexican word, _vamos_, which is Spanish for "let
us go."

It is very interesting to find that many of our most respectable words
borrowed from Latin have a slang origin. Sometimes these words were
slang in Latin itself; sometimes they were used as slang only after
they passed into English. The French word _tête_, which means "head,"
comes from the Latin _testa_, "a pot." (We have seen that this is the
word from which we get our word _test_.) Some Romans, instead of using
_caput_, the real Latin word for "head," would sometimes in slang
fashion speak of some one's _testa_, or "pot," and from this slang
word the French got their regular word for head.

The word _insult_ comes from the Latin _insultarc_, which meant at
first "to spring or leap at," and afterwards came to have the same
meaning as it has with us. The persons who first used this expression
in the second sense were really using slang, picturing a person who
said something unpleasant to them as "jumping at them."

We have the same kind of slang in the expression "to jump down one's
throat," when we mean "to complain violently of some one's behaviour."
The word _effrontery_, which comes to us from the French
_effronterie_, is really the same expression as the vulgar terms
_face_ and _cheek_, meaning "impudence." For the word comes from the
Latin _frons_, "the forehead."

An example of a word which was quite good English, and then came to be
used as slang in a special sense, and then in this same special sense
became good English again, is _grit_. The word used to mean in English
merely "sand" or "gravel," and it came to mean especially the texture
or grain of stones used for grinding. Then in American slang it came
to be used to mean all that we mean now when we say a person has
"grit"--namely, courage, and strength, and firmness. This use of the
word seemed so good that it rapidly became good English; but the
American slang-makers soon found another word to replace it, and now
talk of people having "sand," which is not by any means so expressive,
and will probably never pass out of the realm of slang.

An example of a word which was at first used as slang not many years
ago, and is now, if not the most elegant English, at least a quite
respectable word for newspaper use, is _maffick_. This word means to
make a noisy show of joy over news of a victory. It dates from the
relief of Mafeking by the British in 1900. When news of its relief
came people at home seemed to go mad with joy. They rushed into the
streets shouting and cheering, and there was a great deal of noise and
confusion. It was noticed over and over again that there was no
"mafficking" over successes in the Great War. People felt it too
seriously to make a great noise about it.

A slang word which has become common in England during the Great War
is _sträfe_. This is the German word for "punish," and became quite
familiar to English people through the hope and prayer to which the
Germans were always giving expression that God would "sträfe" England.
The soldiers caught hold of the word, and it was very much used in a
humorous way both at home and abroad. But it is not at all likely to
become a regular English word, and perhaps will not even remain as
slang after the war.

Besides the fact that slang often becomes good English, we have to
notice that good English often becomes slang. One of the most common
forms of slang is to use words, and especially adjectives, which mean
a great deal in themselves to describe quite small and ordinary
things. To speak of a "splendid" or "magnificent" breakfast, for
instance, is to use words out of proportion to the subject, though of
course they are excellent words in themselves; but this is a mild form
of slang.

There are many people now who fill their conversation with
superlatives, although they speak of the most commonplace things. A
theatrical performance will be "perfectly heavenly," an actress
"perfectly divine." Apart from the fact that nothing and no one merely
human can be "divine," divinity itself is perfection, and it is
therefore not only unnecessary but actually incorrect to add
"perfectly." A scene or landscape may very properly be described as
"enchanting," but when the adjective is applied too easily it is a
case of good English becoming slang.

Then, besides the use of superlative adjectives to describe things
which do not deserve such descriptions, there is a crowd of rarer
words used in a special sense to praise things.

Every one knows what a "stunning blow" is, but few people can ever
have been stunned by the beauty of another's clothes. Yet the
expression "stunning hat" or "stunning tie" is quite common.
Expressions like a "ripping time" are even more objectionable, because
they are even more meaningless.

Then, besides the slang use of terms of praise, there are also many
superlatives expressing disgust which the slangmongers use instead of
ordinary mild expressions of displeasure. To such people it is not
simply "annoying" to have to wait for a lift on the underground
railways; for them it is "perfectly sickening."

_Horrid_, a word which means so much if used properly, is applied to
all sorts of slightly unpleasant things and people. When one thinks of
the literal Latin meaning of this word ("so dreadful as to cause us to
shudder"), the foolishness of using it so lightly is plain. People
frequently now declare that they have a "shocking cold"--a
description which, again, is too violent for the subject.

Another form of slang is to combine a word which generally expresses
unpleasant with one which expresses pleasant ideas. So we get such
expressions as "awfully nice" and "frightfully pleased," which are
actually contradictions in terms.

This kind of slang is the worst kind of all. It soon loses any spice
of novelty. It is not really expressive, like some of the quaint terms
of school or university slang, and it does a great deal of harm by
tending to spoil the full force of some of our best and finest words.
It is very difficult to avoid the use of slang if one is constantly
hearing it, but, at any rate, any one who feels the beauty of language
must soon be disgusted by this particular kind of slang.



We have seen in the chapter on "slang" how people are continually
using old words in new ways, and how, through this, slang often
becomes good English and good English becomes slang. The same thing
has been going on all through the history of language. Other words
besides those used as slang have been constantly getting new uses.
Many English words to-day have quite different meanings from those
which they had in the Middle Ages; some even have exactly opposite
meanings to their original sense. Sometimes words keep both the old
meaning and the new.

In this matter the English language is very different from the German.
The English language has many words which the Germans have too, but
their meanings are different. The Germans have kept the original
meanings which these words had hundreds of years ago; but the
thousands of words which have come down to us from the English
language of a thousand years ago have nearly all changed their

We have two of these old words which have now each two exactly
opposite meanings. The word _fast_ means sometimes "immovable," and
sometimes it means the exact opposite--"moving rapidly." We say a key
is "fast" in a lock when we cannot get it out, and we say a person
runs "fast" when we mean that he runs quickly. The first meaning of
steadiness is the original meaning; then the word came to be used to
mean "moving steadily." A person who ran on, keeping up a steady
movement, was said to run fast, and then it was easy to use the word
for rapidity as well as steadiness in motion or position. This is how
the word _fast_ came to have two opposite meanings.

Another word, _fine_, has the same sort of history. We speak of a
"fine needle" when we mean that it is thin, and a "fine baby" when we
mean that it is fat. The first meaning is nearer to the original,
which was "well finished off." Often a thing which had a great deal of
"fine" workmanship spent on it would be delicate and "fine" in the
first sense, and so the word came to have this meaning. On the other
hand, the thing finished off in this way would generally be beautiful.
People came to think of "fine" things as things to be admired, and as
they like their babies to be fat, a fat baby will generally be
considered a fine baby. It was in this kind of way that "fine" came to
have its second meaning of "large."

The common adjectives _glad_ and _sad_ had quite different meanings
in Old English from those they have now. In Old English glad meant
"shining," or "bright," but in a very short time it came to mean
"cheerful." Now it means something rather different from this, for
though we may speak of a "glad heart" or "glad spirit," such
expressions are chiefly used in poetry. Generally in ordinary speech
when we say that we are "glad" we mean that we are pleased about some
special thing, as "glad that you have come."

_Sad_ in Old English meant to have as much as one wanted of anything.
Then it came to mean "calm" and "serious," perhaps from the idea that
people who have all they want are in a mood to settle down and attend
to things seriously. Already in Shakespeare's writings we find the
word with its present meaning of "sorrowful." It has quite lost its
earlier meaning, but has several special new meanings besides the
general one of "sorrowful." A "sad tint," or colour, is one which is
dull. "Sad bread" in the north of England is "heavy" bread which has
not risen properly. Again, we describe as "sad" some people who are
not at all sorrowful. We say a person is a "sad" liar when we mean
that he is a hopeless liar.

The word _tide_, which we now apply to the regular rise and fall of
the sea, used to mean in Old English "time;" and it still keeps this
meaning in the words _Christmastide_, _Whitsuntide_, etc.

One common way in which words change is in going from a general to a
more special meaning. Thus in Old English the word _chest_ meant "box"
in general, but has come now to be used as the name of a special kind
of box only, and also as the name of a part of the body. The first
person who used the word in this sense must have thought of the
"chest" as a box containing the lungs and the heart.

_Glass_ is, of course, the name of the substance out of which we make
our windows and some of our drinking vessels, etc., and this was at
one time its only use; but we now use the name _glass_ for several
special articles--for example, a drinking-vessel, a telescope, a
barometer, a mirror (or "looking-glass"), and so on. _Copper_ is
another word the meaning of which has become specialized in this way
as time has gone on. From being merely the name of a metal it has come
to be used for a copper coin and for a large cauldron especially used
in laundry work. Another example of a rather different kind of this
"specialization" which changes the meaning of words is the word
_congregation_. _Congregation_ used to mean "any gathering together of
people in one place," and we still use the word _congregate_ in this
sense. Thus we might say "the people congregated in Trafalgar Square,"
but we should never think of speaking of a crowd listening to a
lecturer there as a "congregation." The word has now come to mean an
assembly for religious worship in a chapel or church.

Some words have changed their meaning in just the opposite way. From
having one special meaning they have come by degrees to have a much
more general sense. The word _bureau_, which came into English from
the French, meant at first merely a "desk" in both languages. It still
has this meaning in both languages, but a wider meaning as well. It
can now be used to describe an office (a place associated with the
idea of desks). Thus we have "employment bureau," and can get English
money for foreign at a "bureau de change." From this use of the word
we have the word _bureaucracy_, by which we describe a government
which is carried on by a great number of officials.

A better example of how a word containing one special idea can extend
its meaning is the word _bend_. This word originally meant to pull the
string of a bow in order to let fly an arrow. The expression "bend a
bow" was used, and as the result of pulling the string was to curve
the wooden part of the arrow, people came in time to think that
"bending the bow" was this making the wood to curve. From this came
our general use of "bend" to mean forcing a thing which is straight
into a curve or angle. We have, of course, also the metaphorical use
of the word, as when we speak of bending our will to another's.

Another word which has had a similar history is _carry_. When this
word was first borrowed from Old French it meant to move something
from place to place in a cart or other wheeled vehicle. The general
word for our modern _carry_ was _bear_, which we still use, but
chiefly in poetry. In time _carry_ came to have its modern general
sense of lifting a thing from one place and removing it to another. A
well-known writer on the history of the English language has suggested
that this came about first through people using the word in this sense
half in fun, just as the word _cart_ is now sometimes used. A person
may say (a little vulgarly), "Do you expect me to cart all these
things to another room?" instead of using the ordinary word carry. If
history were to repeat itself in this case, _cart_ might in time
become the generally used word, and _carry_ in its turn be relegated
to the realm of poetry.

Words often come to have several meanings through being used to
describe things which are connected in some way with the things for
which they were originally used. The word _house_ originally had one
meaning, which it still keeps, but to which several others have been
added. It was a building merely, but came in time to be used to mean
the building and the people living in it. Thus we say one person
"disturbs the whole house." From this sense it got the meaning of a
royal family, and we speak of the House of York, Lancaster, Tudor, or
Stuart. We also use the word in a large sense when we speak of the
"House of Lords" and the "House of Commons," by which we hardly ever
mean the actual buildings known generally as the "Houses of
Parliament," but the members of the two Houses. The word _world_ has
had almost the opposite history to the word _house_. World originally
applied only to persons and not to any place. It meant a "generation
of men," and then came to mean men and the earth they live on, and
then the earth itself; until it has a quite general sense, as when we
speak of "other worlds than ours."

Many words which are used at present to describe bad or disagreeable
things were used quite differently originally. The word _villain_ is,
perhaps, the most expressive we can use to show our opinion of the
depths of a person's wickedness. Yet in the Middle Ages a villain, or
"villein," was merely a serf or labourer bound to work on the land of
a particular lord. The word in Saxon times would have been _churl_. As
time went on both these words became terms of contempt. The lords in
the Middle Ages were certainly often more wicked than the serfs, as we
see in the stories of the days of Robin Hood; but by degrees the
people of the higher classes began to use the word _villain_ more and
more contemptuously. Many of them imagined that only people of their
own class were capable of high thoughts and noble conduct. Gradually
"villainy" came to mean all that was low and vulgar, and by degrees it
came to have the meaning it has now of "sheer wickedness." At the end
of the Middle Ages there were practically no longer any serfs in
England; but the word _villain_ has remained in this new sense, and
gives us a complete story of the misunderstanding and dislike which
must have existed between "noble" and "simple" to cause such a change
in the meaning of the word.

The word _churl_ has a somewhat similar history. We say now that a
sulky, ungracious person is a "mere churl," or behaves in a "churlish"
manner, never thinking of the original meaning of the word. Here,
again, is a little story of injustice. The present use of the word
comes from the supposition that only the mere labourer could behave in
a sulky or bad-tempered way.

_Knave_ is another of those words which originally described persons
of poor condition and have now come to mean a wicked or deceitful
person. A knave, as we now understand the word, means a person who
cheats in a particularly mean way, but formerly the word meant merely
"boy." It then came to mean "servant," just as the word _garçon_
("boy") is used for all waiters in French restaurants. Another word
which now means, as a rule, some one unutterably wicked, is _wretch_,
though it is also used rather contemptuously to describe some one who
is not wicked but unutterably miserable. Yet in Old English this word
merely meant an "exile." An exile was a person to be pitied, and also
sometimes a person who had done something wrong, and we get both these
ideas in the modern uses of the word. The word _blackguard_, which now
means a "scoundrel," was also once a word for "scullion;" but it does
not go back as far as "knave" and "villain," being found chiefly in
writings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Another word in which the "villeins" and "knaves" and "churls" seem to
have their revenge on the "upper classes" is _surly_. This word used
to be spelt _sirly_, and meant behaving as a "sire," or gentleman,
behaves. Originally this meant "haughty" or "arrogant," but by degrees
came to have the idea of sulkiness and ungraciousness, much like

Several adjectives which are now used as terms of blame were not only
harmless descriptions originally, but were actually terms of praise.
No one likes to be called "cunning," "sly," or "crafty" to-day; but
these were all complimentary adjectives once. A _cunning_ man was one
who knew his work well, a _sly_ person was wise and skilful, and a
_crafty_ person was one who could work well at his trade or "craft."
Two words which we use to-day with a better sense than any of these,
and yet which have a slightly uncomplimentary sense, are _knowing_ and
_artful_. It is surely good to "know" things, and to be full of art;
but both words have already an idea of slyness, and may in time come
to have quite as unpleasant a meaning as these three which have the
same literal meaning.

_Fellow_, a word which has now nearly always a slightly contemptuous
sense, had originally the quite good sense of _partner_. It came from
an Old English word which meant the man who marked out his land next
to yours. The word still has this good sense in _fellowship_,
_fellow-feeling_, etc., and as used to describe a "fellow" of a
college or society. But the more general use is as a less respectful
word for man. One man may say of another that he is a "nice fellow"
without any disrespect; but the word has no dignity, and people, even
though they use it of an equal, would not think of using it to
describe a superior, and the more general use is that of blame or
contempt, as in the expressions, "a disagreeable fellow" or "a stupid
fellow." The word _bully_ was at one time a word which showed
affection, and meant even "lover." In English now, of course, a bully
is a person, especially a boy, who tyrannizes over people weaker than
himself; but the Americans still use the word in a good sense when
they say "bully for you," meaning "bravo."

We have seen many words whose meanings have become less dignified than
their original meaning; but sometimes the opposite happens. Every one
now speaks with respect of a "pioneer," whether we mean by that people
who are the first to venture into strange lands, or, in a more
figurative sense, people who make some new discovery in science or
introduce some new way of thinking or acting. Yet "pioneers" were
originally merely the soldiers who did the hard work of clearing the
way for an advancing army. They were looked upon as belonging to a
lower class than the ordinary soldiers. But this new and at first
figurative use of the word, applied first to geographical and then to
scientific and moral explorers, has given the word a new dignity.

A group of words which had originally very humble meanings, and have
been elevated in an even more accidental way, are the names of the
officials of royal courts. The word _steward_ originally meant, as it
still means, a person who manages property for some one else. The
steward on a ship is a servant; but the steward of the king's
household was no mean person, and was dignified with the title of the
"Lord High Steward of England." The royal house of Stuart took its
name from the fact that the heads of the family were in earlier times
hereditary stewards of the Scottish kings. So _marshal_, the name of
another high official at court, means "horse boy;" _seneschal_, "old
servant;" _constable_, "an attendant to horses' stalls," and so on.
Some of these words have kept both a dignified and a commoner meaning.
_Constable_, besides being the name of a court official, is also
another term for "policeman."

The word _silly_ meant in Old English "blessed" or "happy," but of
course has wandered far from this meaning. On the other hand, several
words which once meant "foolish" have now quite different meanings.
_Giddy_ and _dizzy_ both had this sense in Old English, and so had
the word _nice_. But later the French word _fol_, from which we get
_foolish_, was introduced into English, and these words soon ceased to
be used in this sense. Before this the two words _dizzy_ and _giddy_
had occasionally been used in the sense in which they are used now, to
describe the condition of a person whose head "swims;" this now became
their general meaning, though _giddy_ has gone back again to something
of its old meaning in its later use to describe a person's conduct. A
_giddy_ person is another description for one of frivolous character.

The word _nice_ has had a rather more varied history. It had its
original meaning of "foolish" from the literal meaning of the Latin
word _nescius_, "ignorant," from which it was derived. Gradually it
came to mean "foolishly particular about small things;" and we still
have a similar use of the word, as when we say a person has a "nice
taste in wines," or is a "nice observer," or speak of a "nice
distinction," by which we mean a subtle distinction not very easily
observed. But this is, of course, not the commonest sense in which we
use the word. By _nice_ we generally mean the opposite of _nasty_. A
"nice" observer was a good observer, and from this kind of idea the
word _nice_ came to have the general sense of "good" in some way.
_Nice_ is not a particularly dignified word, and is little used by
good writers, except in its more special and earlier sense. It is,
perhaps, less used in America than in England, and it is interesting
to notice that _nasty_, the word which in English always seems to be
the opposite of _nice_, is not considered a respectable word in
America, where it has kept its earlier meaning of "filthy," or
absolutely disgusting in some way.

Again, the word _disgust_, by which we express complete loathing for
anything, used merely to mean "dislike" or "distaste." In the same
way, the word _loathe_, by which we mean "to hate" or feel the
greatest disgust for, originally meant merely "to dislike." The
stronger meaning came from the fact that the word was often used to
describe the dislike a sick person feels for food. Every one knows how
strong this feeling can be, and it is from this that _loathe_ and
_loathsome_ took the strong meaning they now have. Curiously enough,
the adjective _loath_ or _loth_, from the same word, has kept the old
mild meaning. When we say we are "loth" to do a thing, we do not mean
that we hate doing it, but merely that we feel rather unwilling to do
it. In Old English, too, the word _filth_ and its derivative _foul_
were not quite such strong words as _dirt_ and _dirty_.

Again, the words _stench_ and _stink_ in Old English meant merely
"smell" or "odour." One could then speak of the "sweet stench" of a
flower; but in the later Middle Ages these words came to have their
present meaning of "smelling most disagreeably."

We saw how the taking of the word _fol_ from the French, meaning
"foolish," caused the meaning of several English words which before
had this meaning to be changed. The coming in of foreign words has
been a very common cause for such changes of meaning. The word _fiend_
in English has now a quite different meaning from its original meaning
in English, when it simply meant "enemy," the opposite to "friend."
When the word "enemy" itself was borrowed from the French, the word
_fiend_ came to be less and less often used in this sense. In time
_fiend_ came to be another word for _devil_, the chief enemy of
mankind. But in modern times we do not use the word much in this
sense. It is most often now applied to persons. It sounds rather
milder than calling a person a "devil," but it means exactly the same

The word _stool_ came to have its present special meaning through the
coming into English from the French of the word _chair_. Before the
Norman Conquest any kind of seat for one person was a "stool," even
sometimes a royal throne. The word _deer_ also had in Old English the
meaning of "beast" in general, but the coming in of the word _beast_
from the French led to its falling into disuse, and by degrees it
became the special name of the chief beast of chase.

Again, the Latin word _spirit_ led to the less frequent use of the
word _ghost_, which was previously the general word for _spirit_. When
spirit came to be generally used, _ghost_ came to have the special
meaning which it has for us now--that of the apparition of a dead

A great many words have changed their meaning even since the time of
Shakespeare through being transferred from the subject of the feeling
they describe to the object, or from the object to the subject. Thus
one example of this is the word _grievous_. We speak now of a
"grievous wrong," or a "grievous sin," or a "grievous mistake," and
all these phrases suggest a certain sorrow in ourselves for the fact
described. But this was not the case in the time of Queen Elizabeth,
when it was decreed that a "sturdy beggar," a man who could work but
begged instead, should be "grievously whipped." In this case
_grievously_ merely meant "severely." On the other hand, the word
_pitiful_, which used to mean "compassionate," is no longer applied to
what we feel at seeing a sad thing, but to the sadness of the thing
itself. We do not now say a person is pitiful when he feels sorry for
some one, but we speak of a "pitiful sight" or a "pitiful plight."

The word _pity_ itself is used still in both ways, subjectively and
objectively. A person can feel "pity," and there is "pity" in the
thing for which we feel sorry. This is the sense in which it is used
in such expressions as "Oh, the pity of it!"

The word _hateful_ once meant "full of hate," but came to be used for
the thing inspiring hate instead of for the people feeling it. So,
_painful_ used to mean "painstaking," but of course has no longer
this meaning.

One very common way in which words have changed their meanings is
through the name of one thing being given to another which resembles
it. The word _pen_ comes from the Latin _penna_, "a feather;" and as
in olden days the ordinary pens were "quills" of birds, the name was
very good. We still keep it, of course, for the steel pens and gold
pens of to-day, which we thus literally speak of as feathers. _Pencil_
is a word with a somewhat similar history. It comes from the Latin
_penicillus_, which itself came from _peniculus_, or "little tail," a
kind of cleaning instrument which the Romans used as we use brushes.
_Pencil_ was originally the name of a very fine painter's brush, and
from this it became the name of an instrument made of lead which was
used for making marks. Then it was passed on to various kinds of
pencils, including what we know as a lead-pencil, in which, as a
writer on words has pointed out, there is really neither lead nor

The word _handkerchief_ is also an interesting word. The word
_kerchief_ came from the French _couvre-chef_, "a covering for the
head." Another similar word is one which the Normans brought into
England, _curfew_, which means "cover fire." When the curfew bell rang
the people were obliged to extinguish all lights and fires. The
"kerchief" was originally a covering for the head. Then the fashion
arose of carrying a square of similar material in the hand, and so we
get _handkerchief_, and later _pocket-handkerchief_, which, if we
analyse it, is rather a clumsy word, "pocket-hand-cover-head." The
reason it is so is that the people who added _pocket_ and _hand_ knew
nothing of the real meaning of _kerchief_.

There are several words which used to mean "at the present time" which
have now come to mean "at a future time." This can only have come
about through the people who used them not keeping their promises, but
putting off doing things until later. The word _soon_ in Old English
meant "immediately," so that when a person said that he would do a
thing soon he meant that he would do it "instantly." The trouble was
that often he did _not_, and so often did this happen that the meaning
of the word changed, and _soon_ came to have its present meaning of
"in a short time." The same thing happened with the words _presently_
and _directly_, and the phrase _by-and-by_, all of which used to mean
"instantly." _Presently_ and _directly_ seem to promise things in a
shorter time than _soon_, but _by-and-by_ is a very uncertain phrase
indeed. It is perhaps because Scotch people are superior to the
English in the matter of doing things to time that with them
_presently_ still really means "instantly."

In all the examples we have seen of changes in the meaning of words it
is fairly easy to see how the changes have come about. But there are
some words which have changed so much in meaning that their present
sense seems to have no connection with their earlier meaning. The
word _treacle_ is a splendid example of this. It comes from a Greek
word meaning "having to do with a wild beast," and this seems to have
no connection whatever with our present use of the word _treacle_ as
another word for _syrup of sugar_. The steps by which this word came
to change its meaning so enormously were these. From the general
meaning of "having to do with a wild beast," it came to mean "remedy
for the bite of a wild beast." As remedies for wounds and bites were,
in the old days, generally thick syrups, the word came in time to mean
merely "syrup," and lastly the sweet syrup which we now know as

Another word which has changed immensely in its meaning is _premises_.
By the word _premises_ we generally mean a house or shop and the land
just round it. But the real meaning of the word _premises_ is the
"things already mentioned." It came to have its present sense from the
frequent use of the word in documents drawn up by lawyers. In these,
which very frequently dealt with business relating to houses, the
"things before mentioned" meant the "house, etc.," and in time people
came to think that this was the actual meaning of _premises_, and so
we get the present use of the word.

The word _humour_ is one which has changed its meaning very much in
the course of its history. It comes to us from the Latin word _humor_,
which means a "fluid" or "liquid." By "humour" we now mean either
"temper," as when we speak of being in a "good" or "bad" humour, or
that quality in a person which makes him very quick to find "fun" in
things. And from the first meaning of "temper" we have the verb "to
humour," by which we mean to give in to or indulge a person's whims.
But in the Middle Ages "humour" was a word used by writers on
philosophy to describe the four liquids which they believed (like the
Greek philosophers) that the human body contained. These four
"humours" were blood, phlegm, yellow bile (or choler), and black bile
(or melancholy). According to the balance of these humours a man's
character showed itself. From this belief we get the adjectives--which
we still use without any thought of their origin--_sanguine_
("hopeful"), _phlegmatic_ ("indifferent and not easily excited"),
_choleric_ ("easily roused to anger"), and _melancholy_ ("inclined to
sadness"). A person had these various temperaments according as the
amount of blood, phlegm, yellow or black bile was uppermost in his
composition. From the idea that having too much of any of the
"humours" would make a person diseased or odd in character, we got the
use of the word _humours_ to describe odd and queer things; and from
this it came to have its modern meaning, which takes us very far from
the original Latin.

It was from this same curious idea of the formation of the human body
that we get two different uses of the word _temper_. _Temper_ was
originally the word used to describe the right mixture of the four
"humours." From this we got the words _good-tempered_ and
_bad-tempered_. Perhaps because it is natural to notice more when
people are bad-tempered rather than good, not more than a hundred
years ago the word _temper_ came to mean in one use "bad temper." For
this is what we mean when we say we "give way to temper." But we have
the original sense of "good temper" in the expression to "keep one's
temper." So here we have the same word meaning two opposite things.

Several words which used to have a meaning connected with religion
have now come to have a more general meaning which seems very
different from the original. A word of this sort in English is
_order_, which came through the French word _ordre_, from the Latin
_ordo_. Though the Latin word had the meaning which we now give to the
word _order_, in the English of the thirteenth century it had only the
special meaning (which it still keeps as one of its meanings) of an
"order" or "society" of monks. In the fourteenth century it began to
have the meaning of "fixed arrangement," but the adjective _orderly_
and the noun _orderliness_ did not come into use until the sixteenth
century. The word _regular_ has a similar history. Coming from the
Latin _regula_, "a rule," its modern general meaning in English of
"according to rule" seems very natural; but the word which began to be
used in English in the fourteenth century did not take the modern
meaning until the end of the sixteenth century. Before this, it too
was used as a word to describe monastic orders. The "regular" clergy
were priests who were also monks, while the "secular" clergy were
priests but not monks. The words _regularity_, _regulation_, and
_regulate_ did not come into use until the seventeenth century.

Another word which has now a quite different meaning from its original
meaning is _clerk_. A "clerk" nowadays is a person who is employed in
an office to keep accounts, write letters, etc. But a "clerk" in the
Middle Ages was what we should now more generally call a "cleric," a
man in Holy Orders. As the "clerks" in the Middle Ages were
practically the only people who could read and write, it is, perhaps,
not unnatural that the name should be now used to describe a class of
people whose chief occupation is writing (whether with the hand or a
typewriter). People in the Middle Ages would have wondered what could
possibly be meant by a word which is common in Scotland for a "woman

The words which change their meanings in this way tell us the longest,
and perhaps the best, stories of all.



We have seen that there are great numbers of words in English which
come from the Latin language. Sometimes they have come to us through
Old French words borrowed from the Latin, and sometimes from the Latin
words directly, or modern French words taken from the Latin. The fact
that we have borrowed from the Latin in these two ways has led
sometimes to our borrowing twice over from the same word. Different
forms going back in this way to the same origin are known as
"doublets." The English language is full of them, and they, too, can
tell us some interesting stories.

Many of these pairs of words seem to have no relation at all with each
other, so much has one or the other, or both, changed in meaning from
that of the original word from which they come. A familiar pair of
doublets is _dainty_ and _dignity_, both of which come from the Latin
word _dignitas_. _Dignity_, which came into the English language
either directly from the Latin or through the modern French word
_dignité_, has not wandered at all from the meaning of the Latin word,
which had first the idea of "merit" or "value," and then that of
honourable position or character which the word _dignity_ has in
English. _Dainty_ has a quite different meaning; though it, too, came
from _dignitas_, but through the less dignified way of the Old French
word _daintie_.

The English words _dish_, _dais_, _desk_, and _disc_ all come from the
Latin word _discus_, by which the Romans meant first a round flat
plate thrown in certain games (a "quoit"), and secondly a plate or
dish. In Old English this word became _dish_. In Old French it became
_deis_, and from this we have the English _dais_--the raised platform
of a throne. In Italian it became _desco_, from which we got _desk_;
and the scientific men of modern times, in their need of a word to
describe exactly a round, flat object, have gone back as near as
possible to the Latin and given us _disc_. It is to be noticed that
the original idea of the Latin word--"having a flat surface"--is kept
in these four descendants of a remote ancestor.

The words _chieftain_ and _captain_ are doublets coming from the Late
Latin word _capitaneus_, "chief;" the former through the Old French
word _chevetaine_, and the latter more directly from the Latin.
_Frail_ and _fragile_ are another pair, coming from the Latin word
_fragilis_, "easily broken;" the one through Old French, and the other
through Modern French.

Both these pairs of words have kept fairly close to the original
meaning; but _caitiff_ and _captive_, another pair of doublets, have
quite different meanings from each other. Both come from the Latin
word _captivus_, "captive," the one indirectly and the other directly.
_Caitiff_, which is not a word used now except occasionally in poetry,
means a "base, cowardly person;" but _captive_ has, of course, the
original meaning of the Latin word.

Another pair of doublets, which are quite different in form and almost
opposite to each other in meaning, are _guest_ and _hostile_. These
two words come from the same root word; but this goes further back
than Latin, to the language known as the Aryan, from which nearly all
the languages of Europe and the chief language of India come.
_Hostile_ comes from the Latin _hostis_, "an enemy;" but _hostis_
itself comes from the same Aryan word as that from which _guest_
comes, and so these two words are doublets in English. They express
very different ideas: we are not generally "hostile" or "full of
enmity" against a "guest," one who partakes of our hospitality.

Another pair of doublets not from the Latin are _shirt_ and _skirt_,
which are both old Germanic words. _Skirt_ came later into the
language, being from the Scandinavian, while _shirt_ is an Old English

The word _cross_ and the many words in English beginning with
_cruci_--such as _crucial_, _crucifix_, and _cruciform_--the adverb
_across_, as well as the less common word _crux_, all come from the
Latin word _crux_, "a cross." The word _cross_ first came into the
English language with Christianity itself, for the death of our Lord
on the cross was, of course, the first story which converts to
Christianity were told. It came through the Irish from the Norwegian
word _cros_, which came direct from the Latin. All the words beginning
with _cruci_ come straight from the Latin. _Cruciform_ and _crucifix_
refer to the form of a cross, and so sometimes does the word
_crucial_. But, as a rule, _crucial_ is used as the adjective of the
word _crux_, which means the "test," or "difficult point," in deciding
or doing something. The Romans did not use _crux_ in this sense; but
it is interesting to notice that they did use it in the figurative
sense of "trouble" just as we do. This came from the fact that the
common form of execution for all subjects of the Roman Empire except
Roman citizens was crucifixion.

Two such different words as _tavern_ and _tabernacle_, the one meaning
an inn and the other the most sacred part of the sanctuary in a
church, are doublets from the Latin word _tabernaculum_, "tent." The
first comes from the French _taverne_, and the second directly from
the Latin.

The words _mint_ and _money_ both come from the Latin word _moneta_,
which was an adjective attached by the Romans to the name of the
goddess Juno. The place where the Romans coined their money was
attached to the temple of Juno Moneta, or Juno the Adviser. From this
fact the Romans themselves came to use _moneta_ as the name for
coins, or what we call money. The word passed into French as
_monnaie_, which is still the French word both for _money_ and _mint_,
the place where we coin our money. In German it became _munze_, which
has the same meanings. In English it became _mint_. But the English
language, as we have seen, has a fine gift for borrowing. In time it
acquired the French word _monnaie_, which became _money_ as the name
for coins, while it kept the word _mint_ to describe the place where
coins are made.

The words _bower_, formerly the name of a sleeping-place for ladies
and now generally meaning a summer-house, and _byre_, the place where
cows sleep, both come from the Old English word _bur_, "a bower." The
word _flour_ (which so late as the eighteenth century Dr. Johnson did
not include in his great dictionary) is the same word as _flower_.
Flour is merely the flower of wheat. Again, _poesy_ and _posy_ are
really the same word, _posy_ being derived from _poesy_. _Posy_ used
to mean a copy of verses presented to some one with a bouquet. Now it
stands either for verses, as when we speak of the "posy of a ring," or
more commonly a bunch of flowers without any verses.

The words _bench_ and _bank_ both come from the same Teutonic word
which became _benc_ in Old English and _banc_ in French. _Bench_ comes
from _benc_, but _bank_ has a more complicated history. From the
French _banc_ we borrowed the word to use in the old expression a
"bank of oars." From the Scandinavians, who also had the word, we got
_bank_, used for the "bank of a river." Meanwhile the Italians had
also borrowed the old Germanic word which became with them _banca_ or
_banco_, the bench or table of a money-changer. From this the French
got _banque_, and this became in English _bank_ as we use it in
connection with money.

The Latin word _ratio_, "reckoning," has given three words to the
English language. It passed into Old French as _resoun_, and from this
we got the word _reason_. Later on the French made a new word direct
from the Latin--_ration_; which, again, passed into English as a
convenient name for the allowance of food to a soldier. It has now a
more general sense, as when in the Great War people talk of the whole
nation being put "on rations." Then again, as every child who is old
enough to study mathematics knows, we use the Latin word itself,
_ratio_, as a mathematical term.

Another Latin word which has given three different words to the
English language is _gentilis_. From it we have _gentile_, _gentle_,
and _genteel_. Yet the Latin word had not the same meaning as any of
these words. _Gentilis_ meant "belonging to the same _gens_ or
'clan.'" It became later a distinguishing term from _Jew_. All who
were not Jews were _Gentiles_, and this is still the meaning of the
word _gentile_ in English. It came directly from the Latin. But
_gentilis_ became _gentil_ in French; and we have borrowed twice from
this word, getting _gentle_, which expresses one idea contained in the
French word, though the French word means more than our word _gentle_.
It has the sense of "very amiable and attractive." The last word of
the three, _genteel_, is rather a vulgar word. It means "like
gentlemen and ladies have to do," and only rather ignorant people use
the word seriously.

Doublets from Latin words for the most part resemble each other in
meaning and form, though, as we have seen, this is not always the
case. We could give a long list of examples where both sense and form
are similar, but there is only space to mention a few. _Poor_ and
_pauper_ (a miserably poor person) both come from the Latin _pauper_,
"poor." _Story_ and _history_ both come from _historia_, a word which
had both meanings in Latin. _Human_ and _humane_ are both from the
Latin _humanus_, "belonging to mankind." _Sure_ and _secure_ are both
from the Latin _securus_, "safe." _Nourishment_ and _nutriment_ are
both from the Latin _nutrimentum_. _Amiable_ and _amicable_ are both
from the Latin _amicabilis_, "friendly."

Examples of doublets which are similar in form but not in sense are
_chant_ and _cant_, which both come from the Latin _cantare_, "to
sing." _Chant_ has the original idea, being a form of singing,
especially in church; but _cant_ has wandered far from the original
sense, meaning insincere words, especially such as are used by people
pretending to be religious or pious. The word _cant_ was first used
in describing the chanting or whining of beggars, who were supposed
often to be telling lies; and from this it got its present use, which
has nothing to do with singing.

_Blame_ and _blaspheme_, both coming from the Latin _blasphemare_,
itself taken from a Hebrew word, are not, perhaps, quite so different
in sense; but _blame_ means merely to find fault with a person, while
_blaspheme_ means to speak against God.

_Chance_ and _cadence_ both come from the Latin _cadere_, "to fall,"
but have very little resemblance in meaning. _Chance_ is what happens
or befalls, and _cadence_ is movement measured by the fall of the
voice in speaking or singing.

But the most interesting doublets of all are those which have neither
form nor sense in common. No one would guess that the words _hyena_
and _sow_, the names of two such different animals, are doublets. Both
come from the Greek word _sus_ or _hus_, "sow." The Saxons, when they
first settled in England, had the words _su_, "pig," and _sugu_,
"sow;" and later the word _hyena_ was taken from the Latin word
_hyaena_, itself derived from the Greek _huaina_, "sow."

The words _furnish_ and _veneer_, again, are doublets which do not
resemble each other very closely either in sound or in sense. Both
come from the Old French word _furnir_, which has become _fournir_ in
Modern French, and means "to furnish." The English word _furnish_ was
taken direct from the French, while the word _veneer_, which used to
be spelt _fineer_, came into English from a German word also borrowed
from the French _furnir_.

No one would easily guess that the name _nutmeg_ had anything to do
with _musk_; but the word comes from the name which Latin writers in
the Middle Ages gave to this useful seed--_nux muscata_, "musky nut."

It seems strange, when we come to think of it, that great English
sailors like Admiral Jellicoe and Admiral Beatty are called by a title
which is really the same as the name of an Arabian chieftain--_Emir_.
_Admiral_ comes from the Arab phrase _amir al bahr_, "emir on the

Just the opposite to doublets which do not resemble each other are
many pairs of words which are pronounced alike and sometimes spelled
alike. Very often these words come from two different languages, and
there are many of them in English through the habit the language has
always had of borrowing freely whenever the need of a new word has
been felt.

The word _weed_, "a wild plant," comes from an Old English word, _weod_;
while "widows' weeds" take their name from the Old English word
_woede_, "garment." The word _vice_, meaning the opposite of _virtue_,
comes through the French from the Latin _vitium_, "a fault;" while a
"_vice_," the instrument for taking a perfectly tight hold on anything,
comes from the Latin _vitis_, "a vine," through the French _vis_, "a
screw." Yet another _vice_, as in _viceroy_, _vice-president_, etc.,
comes from the Latin _vice_, "in the place of." _Angle_, meaning the
sport of fishermen, comes from an Old English word, _angel_,
"fish-hook;" while _angle_, "a corner," comes from the Latin word
_angulus_, which had the same meaning.

We might imagine that the word _temple_, as the name of a part of the
head, was a metaphor describing the head as the temple of the mind,
but it has no such romantic meaning. _Temple_, the name of a place of
worship, comes from the Latin _templum_, "a temple;" but _temple_, the
name of a part of the head, is from the Latin word _tempus_, which had
the same meaning in Latin, and also the earlier meaning of "the
fitting time." It has been suggested that in Latin _tempus_ came to
mean "the temple," because it is "the fitting place" for a fatal blow,
the temple being the most delicate part of the head.

_Tattoo_, meaning a "drum beat," comes from the Dutch _tap-toe_,
"tap-to," an order for drinking-houses to shut. But _tattoo_,
describing the cutting away of the skin and dyeing of the flesh so
common among sailors, is a word borrowed from the South Sea Islanders.

_Sound_ meaning "a noise," and _sound_ meaning "to find out the depth
of," as in _sounding-rod_, are two quite different words. The one
comes from the word _son_, found both in Old English and French, and
the other from the Old English words _sundgyrd_, _sund line_, "a
sounding line;" while _sound_ meaning "healthy" or "uninjured," as in
the expression "safe and sound," comes from the Old English word
_sund_, and perhaps from the Latin _sanus_, "healthy."

The existence of so many pairs of words of this sort, which have the
same sound and which yet come from such different origins--origins as
far apart as the speech of the people of Holland and that of the South
Sea Islanders, as we saw in the word _tattoo_--illustrates in a very
interesting way the wonderful history of the English language.



In the days of Queen Elizabeth there were in England certain writers
who were called "Euphuists." They got this name from the title of a
book, "Euphues," written by one of them, John Lyly. The chief
characteristic of the writings of these Euphuists was the grandiose
way in which they wrote of the simplest things. Their writings were
full of metaphors and figures of speech. The first Euphuists were
looked upon as "refiners of speech," and Queen Elizabeth and the
ladies at her court did their best to speak as much in the manner of
Euphues as they could.

But all men at all times are unconscious Euphuists, in so far as they
try to say ugly and unpleasant things in a way which will make them
sound pleasant. This tendency in speech is called "euphemism," a word
which is made from two Greek words meaning "to speak well." It is a
true description of what the word means if by "well" we understand "as
pleasantly as possible." The word _euphemeîte_, "speak fair," was
used as a warning to worshippers in Greek temples, in the belief that
the speaking of an unfortunate word might bring disaster instead of
blessing from the sacrifice.

Every day, and often in a day, we use euphemisms. How often do we hear
people say, "if anything should happen to him," meaning "if he died;"
and on tombstones the plain fact of a person's death is nearly always
stated in phrases such as "he passed away," "fell asleep," or
"departed this life." People often refer to a dead person as the
"deceased" or the "departed," or as the "_late_ so-and-so." The fact
is that, death being to most people the unpleasantest thing in the
world, there is a general tendency to mention it as little as
possible, and, when the subject cannot be avoided, to use vague and
less realistic phrases than the words _death_, _dead_, or _die_.

One reason for this avoidance of an unpleasant subject is the
superstitious feeling that mentioning a thing will bring it to pass.
Or, again, if a misfortune has happened, many people feel that it only
makes it worse to talk about it. While everybody avoids speaking on
the subject, we can half pretend to ourselves that it is not true.

We might imagine that this kind of "refinement of speech" (which when
carried to excess really becomes vulgar) was the result of modern
people being so "nervous." But this is not the case. Complete savages
have the same custom. If civilized people have a superstitious feeling
that to mention a misfortune may bring it to pass, savages firmly
believe that this is the case. Not only will they not mention the
subject of death in plain words, but some will not even mention the
name of a dead person or give that name to a new-born child, so that
in some tribes names die out in this way. Many civilized people have
this same idea that it is unlucky for a new-born child to be called by
the name of a brother or sister who has already died.

The subject of death has gathered more euphemisms around it than
almost any other. Some of them are ugly and almost vulgar, while
others, from the way in which they have been used, are almost
poetical. To speak of the "casualties" in a battle, meaning the number
of killed and wounded men, seems almost heartless; but to say a man
"fell in battle," though it means the same thing, is almost poetical,
because it suggests an idea of courage and sacrifice. The expression,
"Roll of Honour," is a euphemism, but poetical. It suggests the one
consoling thought which relieves the horror of the bald expression,
"list of casualties."

Another cause of the use of euphemisms, besides the superstitious fear
of bringing misfortune by mentioning it too plainly, is the fear of
being vulgar or indecent. Through this feeling words which are quite
proper at one time pass out of use among refined people. English
people do not freely use the word "stomach" in conversation, and are
often a little shocked when they hear French people describing their
ailments in this region of the body. In the same way, names of
articles of underclothing pass out of use. The old word for the
garment which is now generally called a "chemise" was _smock_; but
this in time became tinged with vulgarity, and the word _shift_ was
used. This in its turn fell out of use among refined people, who began
to use the French word _chemise_. Even this, and the word _drawers_,
which was also once a most refined expression, are falling into
disuse, and people talk vaguely of "underlinen" in speaking of these
garments. The shops which are always refined to the verge of vulgarity
only allow themselves to use the French word _lingerie_.

Again, the faults of our friends and acquaintances, and even the
graver offences of criminals, are matters with which we tend to deal
lightly. Such offences have gathered a whole throng of euphemisms
about them. When we do not like to say boldly that a person is a liar,
we say the same thing by means of the euphemism a "stranger to the
truth." Other lighter ways of saying that a person is lying is to say
that he is "romancing," or "drawing the long bow," or "drawing on the
imagination," or "telling a fairy tale." A thief will be described as
a "defaulter," and we may say of a man who has stolen his employer's
money as it passed through his hands that he is "short in his

Especially among the poorer or less respectable people, to whom the
idea of crime becomes familiar, the use of slang euphemisms on this
subject grows up. A person for whom the police are searching is
"wanted." A man who is hanged "swings." These expressions may seem
very dreadful to more refined people, but their use really comes from
the same desire to be indulgent which leads more educated people to
use euphemisms to cover up as far as possible the faults of their

Again, misfortunes which come not from outside happenings but from
some defect in a person's mind and body are often the subject of
euphemisms. In Scotland a person who is quite an imbecile will be
described as an "innocent"--a milder way of saying the same thing.
_Insane_ and _crazy_ were originally euphemisms for _mad_, but now
have come to be equally unpleasant descriptions. So for _drunken_ the
euphemism _intemperate_ came to be used, but is now hardly a more
polite description. We would not willingly speak of a person being
"fat" in his presence. If it is necessary to touch on the subject, the
word "stout" is more favoured. In the absence of the fat person the
humorous euphemism may be used by which he or she is said to "have a
good deal of _embonpoint_."

Many words are euphemisms in themselves, just as many words are
complete metaphors in themselves. The word _ill_ means literally
"uncomfortable," but has come to have a much more serious meaning.
_Disease_ means literally "not being at ease," but the sense in which
we use it describes something much more serious than the literal
meaning. The word _ruin_ is literally merely a "falling."

One result of words being used euphemistically is that they often
cease to have their milder original meaning, and cease therefore to
seem euphemistic at all. _Vile_, which now means everything that is
bad, is in its literal and earlier use merely "cheap." _Base_, which
has the meaning of unutterable meanness, is literally merely "low."
_Mercenary_ is not exactly a complimentary description now. It means
that a person thinks far too much of money, but originally it merely
meant "serving for pay," a thing which most men are obliged to do.
_Transgression_ is generally used now to describe some rather serious
offence, but it literally means only a "stepping across." The "step"
which it describes being, however, in the wrong direction, the word
has come to have a more and more serious meaning. The study of
euphemisms can teach us much about men's thoughts and manners in the
past and the present.



Most stories have a moral. At least grown-up people have a habit of
tacking a little lesson on to the end of the stories they tell to
children. And as a rule the children will listen to the moral for the
sake of the story. And so even the stories which words tell us have
their lessons for us too, and, let us hope, the stories are
sufficiently interesting to pay for the moral.

One thing that these stories must have shown us is that the English
language is a very ancient and wonderful thing. We have only been able
to get mere glimpses of its wonderful development since the days when
the ancestors of the peoples of Europe and many of the peoples of
India spoke the one Aryan tongue. All the history of Europe and of
India--we might almost say of the world--is contained in the languages
which have descended from that Aryan tongue.

Another point which these stories have impressed upon us is that
language is a kind of mirror to thought. For every new idea people
must find a word, and as ideas change words change with them. These
stories have given us some idea of the wonderful growth of ideas in
the minds of men in the past; they have shown us men daring all
dangers for the sake of adventure and discovery and for pride of
country; they have shown us the growth of new ideas of religion and
kindness, new notions about science and learning: in fact, they have
given us glimpses of the whole story of human progress.

The great lesson which these stories ought to teach us is respect for
words. Seeing as we do what a beautiful and wonderful thing the
English language has become, it ought to be the resolution of each one
of us never to do anything to spoil that beauty. Every writer ought to
choose his words carefully, neither inventing nor copying ugly forms
of speech. We have seen also from these stories, especially in the
chapter on "Slang," how people have misused certain words, until
speakers and writers of good taste can no longer use them in their
original sense, and therefore do not use them at all.

There are many other faults in speaking and in writing which take away
from the beauty and dignity of the language. We shall see what some of
these faults are; but one golden rule can be laid down which, if
people keep it, will help them to avoid all these faults. No one
should ever try to write in a fine style. The chief aim which all
young writers should keep before them is to say exactly what they
mean, and in as few and simple words as possible. If on reading what
they have written they find that it is not perfectly clear, they
should not immediately begin to rewrite, but instead set themselves to
find out whether their _thoughts_ are perfectly clear.

There is no idea which has no word to fit it. Of course some writers
must use difficult language. The ordinary reader can sometimes not
understand a sentence of a book of philosophy. This is not because the
philosophers do not write clearly, but because the ideas with which
they have to deal are very subtle, and hard for the ordinary person to

But for ordinary people writing on ordinary things there is no excuse
for writing so as not to be clearly understood, or for writing in such
a long and round-about way that people are tired instead of refreshed
by reading. Nor is there any excuse for the use of words and phrases
which are vulgar or too colloquial for the subject; yet how often is
this done in the modern newspaper. It may seem unnecessary to speak to
boys and girls of the faults of newspaper writers. But the boys and
girls of to-day are the newspaper writers and readers of the future,
and the habits which young writers form cling to them afterwards. Of
course many of the faults which the worse kind of journalists commit
in writing would not occur to boys and girls; but one fault leads to
another. The motive at the root of most poor and showy writing is the
desire to "shine." The faults which seem so detestable to the critical
reader seem very ingenious and brilliant to the writer of poor taste.
To the journalist, as to the schoolboy and the schoolgirl, the golden
rule is, "Be simple."

Let us see what some of the commonest faults of showy and poor writers
of English are--always with the moral before us that they are to be

One great fault of newspaper writers and of young writers in general
is to sprinkle their compositions thickly with quotations, until some
beautiful and expressive lines from the greatest poetry and prose have
almost lost their force through the ear having become tired by hearing
them too often. Some such phrases are--

"Tell it not in Gath;"

"Heap coals of fire upon his head;"

"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof:"

all fine and picturesque lines, the apt quotation of which must have
been very impressive, until, through frequent repetition, they have
become almost commonplace.

A similar hackneyed fault is the too frequent application of the name
of some historical or Biblical personage to describe the character of
some person of whom we are writing. It is much more expressive now to
describe a person as a "doubter" than as a "doubting Thomas," though
the latter phrase may serve to show that the writer knows something
of his New Testament. The first man who called a sceptic a "doubting
Thomas" was certainly a witty and cultivated person; but this cannot
now be said of the use of this hackneyed phrase. Again, it is better
to say a "traitor" than a "Judas," a "wise man" than a "Solomon," a
"tyrant" than a "Nero," a "great general" than a "Napoleon;" for all
these names used in this way have lost their force.

A similar fault is the describing of a person by some abstract noun
such as a "joy," a "delight," an "inspiration"--a way of speaking
which savours both of slang and affectation, and which is not likely
to appeal to people of good taste. Of course it is quite different
when the poet writes--

    "She was a vision of delight;"

for poetry has its own rules, just as it has its own range of ideas
and inspiration, and we are speaking now of the writing of mere prose.

Another bad fault of the same kind, but more colloquial, and more
often met with in speaking than in writing, is the too frequent use of
a word or phrase. Some people say "I mean," or "personally," or "I
see," or "you see," or similar expressions, at nearly every second
sentence, until people listening to them begin to count the number of
times these expressions occur, instead of attending to the subject of

Another very common fault in writing made by newspaper writers, and
even more so by young beginners in composition, is the use of long
words derived from Latin instead of the simpler words which have come
down from the Old English. This does not mean that these words are not
so good or so beautiful as the Old English words. As we have seen,
these words were borrowed by our language to express ideas for which
no native word could be found. But a person who deliberately chooses
long Latin words because they are longer, and, as he thinks, sound
grander, is sure to write a poor style. A saying which is perhaps
becoming almost as "hackneyed" as some of the quotations already
mentioned in this chapter is, "The style is the man." This means that
if a person thinks clearly and sincerely he will write clearly and
sincerely. If a person's thoughts are lofty, he will naturally find
dignified words to express them. No good writer will deliberately
choose "high-sounding" words to express his ideas. All young writers
should avoid what have been called "flowery flourishes."

Again, young writers should be very careful not to use really foreign
words to express an idea for which we have already a good word in
English. Sometimes the foreign word comes first to our pen, but this
may be because of the bad habit which has grown up of using these
words in place of the English words which are quite as correct and
expressive. Sometimes, on the other hand, the foreign word expresses
a shade of meaning which the English word misses, and then, of course,
it is quite right to use it. For instance, _amour propre_ is not in
any way better than "self-love," _bêtise_ than "stupid action,"
_camaraderie_ than "comradeship," _savoir faire_ than "knowledge of
the world," _chef d'oeuvre_ than "masterpiece," and so on.

One disadvantage of borrowing such words is that they often come to be
used in a different sense from their use in their native language; and
people with an imperfect knowledge of these languages will say rather
vulgar or shocking things when using them in the English manner in
those languages. Thus, to speak of a person of a certain "calibre" in
French is exceedingly vulgar; and refined people do not use the word
_chic_ as freely as the English use of it would suggest. Examples of
foreign words which we could hardly replace by English expressions are
_blasé_, _tête-à-tête_, _brusque_, _bourgeois_, _deshabille_. These
have been borrowed, just as words have been borrowed all through its
history, by the English language to fill gaps. They have really become
English words. But there are many foreign expressions now scattered
freely through newspapers the sense of which can only be plain to
those who have had a classical education. Unfortunately it is only the
minority of readers who have had this. The effect is to make whole
passages unintelligible or only half intelligible to the majority of
readers. This is not writing good English. Thus people will write _le
tout Paris_ instead of "all Paris," _mémoires pour servir_ instead of
"documents," _ipsis Hibernis Hiberniores_ for "more Irish than the
Irish." Such phrases are quite unsuitable to the general reader, and
as perfect equivalents can be found in English, there would be no
point in using them, even if writing for a learned society.

Modern English, and especially colloquial English, has borrowed a
great deal from the American way of speaking English. The people of
the United States, though their language is that of the
mother-country, have modified it so that it is, as it were, a mirror
of the difference between American and English life. In America there
is more hurry and bustle and less dignity. It is this difference which
makes Americans and the American way of speaking appear interesting
and piquant to English people. But this is no good reason for the
adoption of American mannerisms into the English language. A typically
American word is _boom_, meaning a sudden coming into popularity of
something. Thus one may speak of a "boom" in motors, and the word has
become quite common in English; but it is not beautiful, and we could
easily have done without it. Words which sound quite natural when used
by Americans often seem unnecessarily "slangy" when used by English

       *       *       *       *       *

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