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Title: A Book About Words
Author: Graham, George Frederick
Language: English
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The increased attention lately paid to our Language as a subject of
Education, has induced the Author to state in the following pages
his views on English (and other) Words. These views are the result
of a long professional career in tuition, together with the study
which such a calling naturally involves.

Notwithstanding the rapid strides made of late years in the science
of Words, much still remains unknown to the general reader; but if
the following remarks be accepted as a small contribution to a more
extended knowledge of this interesting subject, the Author will be
amply compensated for any trouble it may have cost him to collect

  _May, 1869_.



  INTRODUCTION                                                 ix

      CHAPTER I.



  LATIN AND FRENCH WORDS                                       23


  OLD AND NEW WORDS                                            38


  DEGENERACY OF WORDS                                          63

      CHAPTER V.

  PLAY UPON WORDS                                              79


  CONCRETE AND ABSTRACT WORDS                                  96


  GRAND WORDS                                                 101


  THE SPELLING OF WORDS                                       107



      CHAPTER X.

  DIFFERENT VIEWS OF THE SAME IDEA                            141


  COMPOUND WORDS                                              150


  THE PRONUNCIATION OF WORDS                                  156


  SLANG WORDS AND AMERICANISMS                                169


  GENERAL REMARKS ON WORDS, ETC.                              185


  GENERAL REMARKS ON WORDS, ETC., _continued_                 202


  MISCELLANEOUS DERIVATIONS OF WORDS                          215


What is meant by a Language? It is a collection of all the words,
phrases, grammatical forms, idioms, &c., which are used by one
people. It is the outward expression of the tendencies, turn of
mind, and habits of thought of some one nation, and the best
criterion of their intellect and feelings. If this explanation be
admitted, it will naturally follow that the connection between a
people and their language is so close, that the one may be judged
of by the other; and that the language is a lasting monument of the
nature and character of the people.

Every language, then, has its genius; forms of words, idioms, and
turns of expression peculiar to itself; by which, independently of
other differences, one nation may be distinguished from another.
This condition may be produced by various causes; such as soil,
climate, conquest, immigration, &c. Out of the old Roman, or Latin,
there arose several modern languages of Europe; all known by the
generic name--Romance; viz. Italian, French, Provençal, Spanish,
and Portuguese. These may be called daughters of ancient Latin; and
the natives of all these countries down to the seventh century,
both spoke and wrote that language. But when the Scandinavian and
Germanic tribes invaded the West of Europe, the Latin was broken
up, and was succeeded by Italian, French, Spanish, &c. The Latin
now became gradually more and more corrupt, and was, at length, in
each of these countries, wholly remodelled.

History has been called ‘the study of the law of change;’ i.e. the
process by which human affairs are transferred from one condition
to another. The history of a language has naturally a close
analogy with political history; the chief difference being that
the materials of the latter are facts, events, and institutions;
whilst the former treats of words, forms, and constructions. Now,
in the same way as a nation never stands still, but is continually
undergoing a silent--perhaps imperceptible--transformation, so
it is with its language. This is proved both by experience and
reason. We need hardly say that the English of the present time
differ widely from the English of the fourteenth century; and we
may be quite sure that the language of this country, two or three
centuries hence, will be very different from what it is at present.
It would be impossible for a nation either to improve or decay, and
for its language at the same time to remain stationary. The one
being a reflex of the other, they must stand or fall together.

What, then, is this law of change? On what principles is it
based? How are we to study or follow out its operations? These
questions are exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to answer
definitively. But there are circumstances connected with the
formation of certain languages which may throw some light on
them. It may be received as a principle that, when one nation is
overrun or conquered by another, the effect on the language of
the conquered depends mainly on the condition of that which is
brought in by the conquerors. If the victors be as superior to the
vanquished in civilisation and improvement as they have proved
themselves in physical power, they will impose their language on
the conquered people. If, on the other hand, that of the vanquished
be the more cultivated, the reverse will take place; the dialect of
the conquerors will be absorbed into that of the conquered.

When the Visigoths settled in Spain in the fifth century, their
dialect made but little impression on the language afterwards known
as Spanish. The Latin element in the Peninsula, though at that time
falling into decay, was far more refined and polished than the
barbarous dialect then introduced; and it consequently remained,
with some slight modifications, the language of the country. The
same happened when the Northmen settled in France in the tenth
century. It is astonishing how rapidly the language of Rollo and
his followers was absorbed into French! This may have been assisted
by the intermarriage of the conquerors with the women of the
country; but it was produced chiefly by the different conditions of
the two languages.

On the other hand, when the Normans, under William the Conqueror,
invaded England in the eleventh century, a different effect was
produced. The Norman French after a time, though not immediately,
enriched the English language with many words, but it did not,
in the slightest degree, either then or afterwards, affect its
grammatical forms or idioms. The cause of this was that the Saxon
language was, at that epoch, already fixed, and fit for literary
purposes. It was, indeed, much further advanced as a literary
language than the invading Norman-French. It therefore resisted
this external pressure; and though it afterwards admitted numerous
French terms, the English language remains to this day Saxon, and
not French, in its tone, character, and grammar.

The climate of a country, or the temperament of a people, may
also strongly influence the character of the language. Given an
indolent and luxurious race, and we must expect that softness and
effeminacy will appear in their spoken and written expression. No
acute observer can fail to perceive a close connection between the
national character of the Italians and the softness and beauty of
their harmonious tongue. Again: the simplicity and somewhat homely
and rough vigour of the Teutonic race, are clearly shadowed forth
in the sounds and forms of the German language.

The climate, too, in both cases, may have contributed towards these
results. A hot, enervating atmosphere produces languor of mind
as well as body; whilst a bracing cold air, though it may assist
in producing a phlegmatic temperament, at the same time infuses
vigour, energy, and power into those who are subjected to its

There are also, no doubt, many hidden causes of gradual changes in
language. These are difficult to ascertain; and some of them escape
the sagacity of even the most acute observers. Political struggles,
foreign wars, domestic habits, literary studies, &c., may all
contribute to alter the character of a people, and so far to affect
their language.

But whatever may be these mysterious laws of change, they must be
left to Nature herself, and no one must attempt to interfere with
them. There are no more miserable failures recorded in history
than the attempt by rulers to interfere with the laws of Nature.
We are told (though not on very good authority) that William the
Conqueror _ordered the Saxons to speak Norman-French_. He might
as well have ordered his new subjects to walk on their heads--the
one was quite as easy as the other. But no writer tells us with
what success this decree was executed. Ordericus Vitalis, indeed,
states that William endeavoured to learn Saxon, though he does not
say how far he succeeded. Now it is not very likely that he should
have studied a language which he was, at the same time, bent on
exterminating. Indeed, there is an air of extreme improbability
about the whole story.

In more recent times, it is well known that Joseph II., of Germany,
issued an edict that all his subjects, Slavonic, Magyar, or German,
should adopt one uniform language--German. But it was soon found
impossible to execute this decree, for the people would as soon
have parted with their lives as with their language; the whole
empire was, therefore, immediately thrown into confusion. Many
of the provinces broke out into open rebellion, and it at length
became necessary to abandon the project.

It is then clear that no one has the power, of his own will or
caprice, to add a single word to a language, or to cast one out
of it. These changes must be left to Nature, and all we can do is
to watch her operations, to observe and record facts. But we may
speculate on the origin of words, and may sometimes discover the
causes of their birth. We may also inquire into the circumstances
of their career, and the laws which regulate their forms, changes,
meanings, &c. These inquiries are particularly comprehensive and
interesting, because they naturally lead us to some knowledge of
what words represent, and also because they are closely connected
with the study of the human mind both as regards intellect and






Most Philologists have hitherto held the opinion that, in general,
no satisfactory account can be given of the origin of language.
They can trace a word from one language to another, and can account
for its various forms and changes by laws now generally understood;
but they confess their inability to explain what determined the
original form of its root. They take that original form for
granted, as a sort of intuitive truth which must be admitted as a
necessity. They can explain the circumstances of its career; but
of its first cause or nature they profess to understand little or

But though this is the general opinion, all linguists admit that in
every language certain words, more especially those that convey
ideas of sound, are formed on the principle of _onomatopœia_; i.e.
an attempt to make the pronunciation conform to the sound. Such
English words as ‘hiss,’ ‘roar,’ ‘bang,’ ‘buzz,’ ‘crash,’ &c., are
of this class. One can hardly pronounce these words without, in
some sense, performing the acts which they represent.

One school of linguists have lately expressed a belief that all
words were formed on this principle. A very curious illustration
of this view is given in Mr. Wedgwood’s ‘Origin of Language.’
Explaining the interjection _Hem_, he says, it was originally an
attempt to stop some one. We are supposed to be walking behind
some person; we wish to stop him, and we exclaim, ‘_Hem!_’ This
is given as the primary meaning of the word. ‘The sound is here
an echo to the sense.’ But _hem_ is used in other ways; either as
a noun, or a verb; always, however, retaining its original idea
of restricting, or keeping back. The _hem_ of a garment is what
_prevents_ the thread from ravelling. Again, soldiers are sometimes
_hemmed_ in by the enemy; that is, _prevented_ from using their
free will to go where they choose. This illustration is intended to
prove that the principle of onomatopœia applies not only to words
that represent sound, but, by analogy, to other meanings derived
from that principle. There _is_ sound implied in the interjection
_hem_; though in the noun and the verb, both derived from that
interjection, no idea of sound is conveyed.

This connection between sound and sense is certainly a natural
principle; and however scornfully it may have been ridiculed by
some philosophers, it has undoubtedly produced many very fine
passages in the poetry of both ancient and modern times.

1. The chorus of frogs in Aristophanes, where their croaking is
represented by words invented for the occasion:

      Βρεκεκεξ, κοαξ, κοαξ.

This is, to say the least of it, very ingenious, and, in its way,
beautiful, because true.

2. The same principle seems to apply in the πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης
(poluphloisboio thalassēs) of Homer, where the first word was
probably intended to represent the roaring of the wave mounting on
the sea-shore; and the second, the hissing sound which accompanies
a receding billow.

3. Another example of onomatopœia, in Virgil’s Æneid, viii. 452,
has been often quoted:

      ‘Quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum;’

where the succession of dactyls is admirably adapted to represent
the sound of the hoofs of a galloping horse.

4. Several examples of the same figure may be found in Milton.
Describing the thronging of the fallen angels in Pandemonium:

      Thick swarmed, both on the ground and in the air,
      Bru_sh_ed with the hi_ss_ of ru_st_ling win_gs_.

5. Also, speaking of the gates of hell:

                       ... open fly
      Th’ infe_r_nal doo_r_s; and on their hinges g_r_ates
      Ha_r_sh thunde_r_ ...

Here the recurrence of the letter _r_ is well calculated to convey
the idea of a harsh, creaking, grating sound.

6. A similar effect is produced in Tasso’s ‘Gerusalemme Liberata.’

      Il _r_auco son della Ta_r_tarea tromba.

This connection between sound and sense may very probably exist in
many words where we now fail to perceive it; but in the present
state of our knowledge of the subject, we can hardly pronounce
positively in favour of this view as applied to the whole body of a
language. The question remains, for the present, in abeyance.

_Families of Words (Saxon)._

But setting aside the origin of words, it is not difficult to show
the affinity which many springing from the same root have for
each other. There are in English, as in other languages, hundreds
of words which may be said to have a family connection, and which
are traceable to one common origin, or root. This connection
may be found in the Saxon as well as the Romance part of our
language. _Th_ (soft) may be considered as the type of the idea
of demonstration. All the English pronouns and adverbs beginning
with these letters have that general meaning, which may be seen in
‘_th_at,’ ‘_th_e,’ ‘_th_ere,’ ‘_th_ence,’ ‘_th_is,’ ‘_th_ither,’
‘_th_ose,’ ‘_th_us,’ and others. Again, the initial _wh_ may be
considered as the type of an interrogative, or relative meaning.
This also may be seen in many English pronouns and adverbs; as in
‘_wh_at,’ ‘_wh_en,’ ‘_wh_ence,’ ‘_wh_ere,’ ‘_wh_ither,’ ‘_wh_o,’
‘_wh_om,’ ‘_wh_ose,’ &c. The principle of inversion has affected
the whole of this class of words. They are all of Saxon origin,
and were spelled in that language _hw_, and not _wh_; as in ‘hwæt’
(what), ‘hwaer’ (where), ‘hwanne’ (when), &c.


The Saxon initial _tw_ corresponds with the Romance _du_. There
are many English words having this initial, which convey the idea
of ‘two.’ 1. The numeral itself, ‘_tw_o’ 2. ‘_Tw_ain,’ a now
obsolete form of ‘two.’ 3. ‘_Tw_in,’ one of _tw_o children born at
a birth. 4. ‘Be_tw_een,’ which is only another form of ‘by twain.’
5. ‘_Tw_ilight,’ i.e. between _tw_o lights--daylight and lamplight.
6. ‘_Tw_ice’ is equivalent to ‘_tw_o’ times. 7. To ‘_tw_ist’ is
to bend _tw_o or more threads together. 8. To ‘_tw_ine’ is to
interlace, so as to form one body out of _tw_o. And 9. A ‘_tw_ig’
is so called from its being easily twisted.

It is said that the word ‘nose’ originally signified a
promontory--something prominent--and that it is so called from
being the prominent feature of the face. This view is supported
by its analogy with _naze_, a headland, and the Scotch _ness_ (as
in Inver_ness_), a part of the coast which juts forward. It may
be observed that the word meaning ‘nose’ has in most European
languages the form N-S-. This may be seen in the Greek νῆσος, an
island or promontory; the Latin _nasus_, the Italian _naso_, the
German _Nase_, the French _nez_, and the English _nose_. Whether
this be or be not an onomatopœia one thing is certain, viz. that
in English the initial sn (ns inverted) in so many cases expresses
nasal action, that it may be taken as a general type of that
meaning. This may be found in a multitude of words having that
initial, all expressing various actions of the nose. It may be
seen in ‘_sn_arl,’ ‘_sn_eer,’ ‘_sn_eeze,’ ‘_sn_iff,’ ‘_sn_ore,’
‘_sn_ort,’ ‘_sn_ooze,’ ‘_sn_out,’ ‘_sn_ub,’ ‘_sn_uff,’ &c.

_Ber-an--to bear._

This is the source of our English verb ‘to bear.’ It produces
the following:--1. ‘Barrow,’ an implement used for carrying or
_bearing_. 2. ‘Berth,’ a place in which one is _borne_. 3. ‘Bier,’
a coffin in which a corpse is _borne_ to the grave. 4. ‘Birth,’ the
_bearing_ of a child. 5. ‘Berry,’ the fruit which a tree _bears_.

_Bles-an--to blow._

From this verb we have, 1. ‘Blaze,’ a strong flame _blown_ forth.
2. ‘Blast,’ a violent _blowing_, or gust of wind. 3. ‘Blain,’ a
boil, or _blowing_ up of the flesh. 4. ‘Blight,’ injury done to
corn, &c., from being _blasted_. 5. ‘Blister,’ a _blowing_, or
rising, up of the skin. 6. ‘Blossom’ (or ‘bloom’), the _blowing_
forth of the flower. 7. ‘Blush,’ a _blowing_ forth of the blood. 8.
‘Bluster,’ as the wind when _blowing_ hard.

_Brecc-an--to break._

1. The English verb ‘to break’ is directly from the above. 2.
‘Bridge,’ a building which _breaks_ a passage across a river, &c.
3. ‘Breach,’ that part of a wall or fortification _broken_ into by
artillery. 4. To ‘broach’ a cask of ale is to _break_ into it. 5.
A ‘brook’ is a stream of water which _breaks_ its way across the

_Bug-an--to bend._

1. A ‘bay’ is a _bending_ in of the line of coast. 2. In sailors’
language, a ‘bight’ is the hollow part of a bay, or a coil of
rope _bent_ round. 3. A ‘bow’ is so called from its being _bent_.
4. To make a ‘bow’ is to _bend_ the body. 5. ‘Beam’ (compare the
German ‘Baum’) is so named from its property of _bending_. 6. A
‘bough’ is the part of the tree that easily _bends_. 7. A ‘bower’
is made of branches bowed or _bent_ down. 8. The adjective ‘buxom’
(compare the German ‘biegsam’) is properly _bending_ or pliable.
9. ‘El_bow_’ is the bow of the ell, or that part where the arm
_bends_. ‘Big’ and ‘bag’ are probably from the same source; they
both convey the idea of something _bent_ round.

_Ceap-ān--to exchange._

The essence of buying and selling lies in the exchange of goods for
money, or money for goods. Hence come 1. the English word ‘chapman’
(sometimes contracted into _chap_), which properly means a buyer
and seller. 2. To ‘chaffer’ is to bargain about a purchase. 3.
‘Cheap,’ bearing a low price, refers to a similar transaction. 4.
We have also ‘_Cheap_side’ and ‘East_cheap_,’ originally markets,
or places for buying and selling. 5. Chepstow, Chipping Norton, and
other names of market-towns in England, are from the same root. 6.
The wind is said to _chop_ when it changes from one point of the
compass to another.

_Ceaw-an--to chew._

1. The older form of ‘chew’ was ‘chaw,’ which we still occasionally
hear in ‘chaw-bacon.’ 2. The cud is the grass _chewed_ by
ruminating animals. 3. A quid of tobacco is a piece kept in the
mouth to be _chewed_.

_Dael-an--to divide._

1. To ‘deal’ is from the above verb. It is used in English in a
variety of senses, all containing the idea of dividing into parts.
2. A certain sort of wood is called ‘deal’ from being easily
_divided_, or cut into planks. 3. To ‘deal’ cards is to _divide_
them into packets or parcels. 4. Tradesmen ‘deal’ in certain
articles when they sell them in small, _divided_ quantities. 5.
We also say ‘a great deal,’ speaking of a large part _divided_
from the mass. [‘_Some-deal_’ was formerly said, but it is now
obsolete.] 6. A ‘dole’ is a small part or share _dealt_ out.
(Compare the German ‘theilen.’)

_Dic-ian--to dig._

From this Saxon verb we have, 1. To ‘dig.’ 2. ‘Dike,’ a mound of
earth ‘_dug_’ out. 3. ‘Ditch,’ a line ‘_dug_.’ 4. ‘Dagger,’ an
instrument used for ‘_digging_;’ and 5. ‘Dock,’ a place ‘_dug_’
out on the side of a harbour or bank of a river, where ships are

_Drag-an--to draw._

This Saxon verb gives the English ‘to draw.’ From this we have, 1.
‘Dray,’ a heavy cart _drawn_ along. 2. A ‘drain,’ a tube to _draw_
off water. 3. A ‘draft,’ an order to _draw_ out money from a bank.
4. A ‘draught’ is a quantity of liquid _drawn_ into the mouth.
5. To ‘drawl’ is to drag on the voice heavily. 6. ‘Drudge,’ and
7. ‘Dredge’ (for oysters, &c.); both which express a dragging or
_drawing_. (Compare the German ‘tragen’ and the Latin ‘trahere.’)

_Dropi-an--to drop._

From this root comes 1. The verb ‘to drop.’ 2. To ‘droop,’ i.e. to
lean downwards. 3. To ‘drip,’ or fall continually. 4. To ‘dribble,’
or to fall in small ‘_drops_.’ 5. A ‘driblet,’ or a very small

_Eri-an--to till._

1. To ‘ear,’ in the sense of ‘to plough,’ is now obsolete in
English, though we have an ‘ear,’ or spike, of corn--the result of
_tilling_; and 3. ‘Earth,’ that which is _tilled_ or cultivated.

_Far-an--to journey._

1. From this verb (German ‘fahren’) comes our verb to ‘fare;’
literally, to go on, or make a journey. 2. The adverbs ‘fore,’
‘forth,’ and ‘far’ convey a similar idea; viz. that of onward
movement. 3. The ‘ford’ of a river is that point at which it can
be ‘fared,’ or crossed; and 4. To ‘ferry’ is the act of faring, or
passing across a river or lake. 5. ‘Frith’ and ‘firth’ are formed
on the same principle; they are those parts of the sea where one
can be ferried across. 6. The first syllable (_fur_) in the word
‘furlough’ belongs to this family. It is leave (lough) granted to
a soldier to ‘fare,’ or journey, home for a time. All these forms
are devices to explain a variety of modes of _faring_, or moving

_Fed-an--to feed._

This gives us, 1. To ‘feed.’ 2. ‘Fat,’ the result of being well
‘_fed_.’ 3. ‘Fodder,’ provision for cattle; and, 4. ‘Food,’ that
which ‘_feeds_,’ or supplies nourishment.

_Fi-an--to hate._

From this verb we have in English--1. A ‘fiend,’ one who _hates_.
2. Hence also comes ‘foe,’ an enemy, or one _hated_. 3. To the
same root may be traced ‘fie!’ an interjection expressing dislike
or _hatred_; 4. and also ‘foh!’ or ‘faugh!’ an exclamation of

_Fleaw-an--to flow._

Hence come, 1. ‘To flow.’ 2. ‘Fleet;’ a number of ships that
‘_flow_,’ or swim, on the water. 3. The adjective ‘fleet,’
qualifying what _flows_ by. 4. To ‘float,’ or swim, on the water;
and, 5. ‘Flood,’ a large _flow_ of water.

_Fuli-an--to make dirty._

From this root come, 1. ‘Foul’ (putrid, offensive). 2. To ‘defile;’
to make ‘foul.’ 3. The noun ‘filth,’ dirt. 4. The adjective
‘filthy;’ and 5. ‘Fulsome;’ full of filth, nauseous, disgusting.

_G-an--to go._

1. ‘Gan’ is the Saxon verb whence the English ‘to go’ is derived.
2. This gives us ‘gait,’ i.e. a manner of ‘_going_;’ and, 3.
‘Gate,’ a door through which one ‘_goes_.’ To these may be added 4.
‘Gang,’ a number of people ‘_going_’ together; and, 5. the nautical
term ‘gang-way,’ i.e. a passage ‘to go’ through. 6. The verb ‘to
gad,’ i.e. to be continually ‘_going_’ from one place to another,
also probably belongs to this family.

_Glowi-an--to burn._

The verb ‘to low,’ in the sense of ‘to burn,’ does not now exist in
the language; but the above verb gives us, 1. To ‘glow,’ i.e. to
burn intensely; whence come the forms, 2. ‘Gleam;’ 3. ‘Glimmer;’
and, 4. ‘Glimpse;’ 5. ‘Gloom,’ or a state into which light
‘gleams;’ and, 6. the word ‘light,’ which is a participial form of
the old verb to ‘low.’ In one English word the root ‘low’ is still
retained, viz. ‘whit_low_,’ a painful _white burning_ on the finger
or thumb.

_Graf-an--to dig._

From this verb we have in English, 1. ‘Grave,’ a pit _dug_. 2. To
‘engrave,’ i.e. to scratch or _dig_ in. 3. ‘Groove,’ a line _dug_
in. 4. ‘Gravel,’ earth _dug_ up. 5. To ‘grovel,’ literally, to
_dig_ up earth; and, 6. To ‘grub,’ or scratch into the earth.

_Gyrd-an--to enclose._

The English words derived from ‘_gyrdan_,’ and having a cognate
meaning are, 1. To ‘gird,’ to _enclose_ by tying round. 2.
‘Girdle,’ a small band or cincture. 3. ‘Girth,’ the band which
‘girds’ the saddle on a horse. 4. ‘Garter,’ a band tied round the
leg; and, 5. ‘Garden,’ a space _enclosed_ for the cultivation of
fruit, vegetables, &c.


From the Anglo-Saxon and German ‘lang’ is derived, 1. our adjective
‘long;’ from which again comes, 2. the abstract noun ‘length.’ 3.
The adjective, ‘lean;’ and 4. ‘lanky’ are also members of this
family. 5. To ‘linger,’ i.e. to remain a _long_ time in a place.
6. To ‘lunge;’ to make a _long_ stroke with a rapier; and, 7. A
‘_link_,’ that which makes a chain ‘_longer_.’

_Lecj-an--to lay._

1. Both the English verbs ‘lay’ and ‘lie’ (which is to lay oneself
down) come from this verb, 2. ‘Ledge,’ a place on which to _lay_
anything; 3. ‘Ledger,’ a book which _lies_ on a merchant’s desk;
and, 4. ‘Law,’ a rule _laid_ down.

_Læd-an--to lead._

1. Besides the verb ‘to lead,’ we have from this source: 2.
‘Ladder,’ an instrument which _leads_ to a higher place. 3.
Load-star, and loadstone, i.e. a _leading_ star or stone.

_(H)lifi-an--to lift._

This is the source of, 1. our verb to ‘lift.’ Also, 2. ‘Loft,’
i.e. a room ‘lifted’ high. 3. The adverb ‘aloft’--‘lifted up.’ 4.
‘Aloof;’ and 5. The adjective ‘lofty.’

_Maw-an--to cut down._

From the Saxon root ‘maw’ comes immediately 1. Our verb to
‘mow,’--as well as a ‘mow’ (a barley-_mow_ or a hay-_mow_); i.e. a
quantity of barley or hay mown and heaped together. From this is
derived, 2. ‘Mead,’ i.e. a _mowed_ field; and, 3. Meadow, a large
mead. 4. Farmers still use the word after_math_, which, with them,
is a second mowing. 5, The now obsolete ‘mo’ or ‘moe,’ as used in
the sense of a collected quantity or heap by Chaucer and other
writers down to Lord Surrey, is said to give us the words ‘more’
and ‘most’ as the comparative and superlative forms of ‘mo;’ but
this is doubted by many etymologists.

_Pocca--a bag._

There are several English derivatives from this root. 1. We find it
in the word ‘smallpox’ (or pocks), where it means little bags or
holes left in the skin by the action of this disease. 2. We once
had the word ‘poke’ in the sense of ‘a bag,’ as in the phrase ‘to
buy a pig in a _poke_.’ 3. ‘Pocket’ is a diminutive of poke, i.e.
a little bag. 4. To ‘poach;’ and 5. ‘Pouch’ are variations of the
same root; for to ‘poach’ is to steal game and conceal it in a
‘pouch.’ 5. A ‘peck,’ and 6. a ‘pack’ are both generic terms of a
similar meaning; and, 7. ‘Puckered’ cheeks are bagged or puffed
out with the cold.

_Scuf-ian--to push._

This root is a fertile source of English words; we find it, 1. in
our now not very elegant word ‘shove,’ that is, to push rudely
or roughly. 2. A ‘sheaf’ of corn takes its name from the stalks
of which it is composed being ‘shoved,’ or _pushed_ up together;
and, 3. the ‘shaft’ of a javelin is the wooden part which is
‘_shoved_’ into the iron. 4. A ‘shovel’ is a small instrument
used to ‘_shove_,’ or push into, coals, etc.; and, 5. our ‘shoes’
are so called because we ‘_shove_’ our feet into them. 6.
‘Scuffle’ and ‘shuffle’ are only modified forms of the verb ‘to
shove,’ and express a repetition of that act. According to some
etymologists the word ‘sheep’ belongs to this family, as being an
animal ‘_shoved_’ or pushed along in flocks from place to place.
Hence, perhaps, the name; but this must be considered a doubtful

_Scyr-an--to cut._

From this Saxon verb come, 1. To ‘shear’ and the noun ‘shears.’
2. A ‘share’ of anything means, properly, a part ‘_cut_’ off, or
divided from the whole substance; and a ‘ploughshare’ is that
part of the implement which ‘_cuts_’ through the earth. 3. Common
experience tells us that the adjective ‘sharp’ qualifies what
easily _cuts_ or divides. 4. A ‘shire’ signifies a district _cut_
off or divided from the rest of the country; and ‘sheriff’ is a
contraction of ‘shire-reeve,’ i.e. the officer of the ‘shire.’ 5.
‘Shirt’ and, 6. ‘Short’ both belong to the same class; the first
is a garment ‘_cut_’ off, and the second is a participle from the
verb ‘to shore’ or _divide_, the noun ‘shore’ meaning the line
which ‘_divides_’ the sea from the land. From the same root comes,
7. ‘Sheer.’ Sheer impudence and sheer nonsense mean impudence
and nonsense unqualified, i.e. ‘divided’ or _cut_ off from any
modesty and sense. Besides the above, we have the same general idea
in the expression, 8. ‘Shreds’ and patches, little snippings or
‘_cuttings_.’ 9. Shakspere’s ‘shard-borne’ beetle means the beetle
borne on his ‘shards,’ or scaly wings _divided_ in the middle. 10.
To these we may add ‘potsherd,’ a piece broken off or _divided_
from a pot. The words ‘scar,’ ‘score,’ ‘scream,’ ‘screech,’
‘shrill,’ ‘shriek,’ &c., belong to the same class, the leading idea
in them all being that of _cutting_ or dividing; and they are all
based upon the type ‘scr’ or ‘shr.’

_Sitt-an--to sit._

1. This is the origin of our word to ‘sit;’ whence comes, 2. To
‘set.’ The latter is the transitive from the intransitive, formed
by a change of the vowel. 3. ‘Settle’ is a frequentative of
‘_sit_,’ and expresses a permanent sitting. 4. A ‘seat’ is from the
same root; it is that on which any one ‘_sits_;’ and, 5. A ‘saddle’
is a seat on horseback.


1. From the Anglo-Saxon ‘Sleaw’ comes our adjective ‘slow.’ Hence
we have, 2. ‘Sloth,’ or the quality of being _slow_; 3. ‘Sloven’
(m.) and ‘slut’ (f.), which both convey the idea of being _slow_
and negligent; 4. ‘Slug,’ a _slow_ animal, from which comes the
verb ‘to slug,’ to indulge in sloth; and, 7. ‘Sluggard,’ a lazy
indolent man.

_Stig-an--to mount._

This root gives us, 1. ‘Stair,’ a step to _mount_ by; 2. ‘Stile’
(A.-S. Stigel), a gate to be _mounted_ or got over; 3. ‘Stirrup’
(or stig-rope), a rope by which to _mount_; and, 4. ‘Stye,’ i.e. a
_rising_ pustule on the eyelid.

_Straeg-an--to spread._

From the A.-S. root ‘straeg’ we have the English words ‘straw’ and
‘strew.’ 1. ‘Straw’ is the dry stalks of certain plants ‘strewn’
or scattered about. 2. To ‘stray’ means to go dispersedly or
separately. 3. ‘Straggle’ is a frequentative of the last word. 4.
The word ‘street’ is by some supposed to be connected with this
root. A ‘street’ is a way ‘strewn’ or paved with stones.

_Taepp-an--to draw drink._

Hence we have in English, 1. ‘To tap,’ and, 2. A ‘tap,’ the
instrument by which wine or beer is drawn from the cask; 3.
‘Tapster,’ one who draws liquor. 4. To ‘tope’ is to ‘tip’ off beer
or spirits. 5. A ‘toper’ is one who topes, and to ‘tipple’ is to
be continually toping. 6. One who ‘tipples’ is likely to be often

_Tell-an--to count._

The ordinary meaning of our English verb ‘to tell’ is to recount
the particulars of some event or occurrence. Hence comes a ‘tale,’
which signifies the recounting of such particulars. The passage in
Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’--

      Every shepherd _tells his tale_
      Under the hawthorn in the dale--

has been explained as ‘every shepherd _counts over his sheep_.’
Shakspere has, ‘as thick as _tale_ came post with post,’ that is,
as rapidly as could be counted. From the same root comes ‘till,’
a box into which money is _counted_. Again, when we speak of
‘tolling’ a bell, a similar meaning is implied, viz. the numbering
or _counting_ out the strokes; and a ‘toll’ is money _told_ or
_counted_ into the hands of the receiver. Again, accounts are said
to ‘_tally_’ when, after being reckoned or _counted_ up, they
amount to the same sum.

_Teog-an--to pull._

From this verb come, 1. To ‘tow,’ to _pull_ a boat or vessel along;
2. To ‘tug,’ to _pull_ with force. 3. The noun ‘tow’ means flax
which must be ‘tugged,’ or _pulled_, asunder. 4. The adjective
‘tough,’ which qualifies what must be _pulled_ hard. 5. ‘Team,’
a number of horses _pulling_ together; and, 6. ‘Tight,’ what is
‘towed’ or _pulled_ together with force. 7. The sailor’s phrase ‘to
haul taut,’ is ‘to _pull_ tight.’

_Wan-ian--to decrease._

1. We still say, ‘the moon waxes and “wanes,”’ i.e. apparently
increases and _decreases_ in size. 2. ‘Wan,’ an adjective which
expresses thinness or _decrease_ of health. 3. ‘Want’ signifies a
condition in which our means are _decreased_; and, 4. To ‘wean’ is
to gradually accustom any one to a ‘want.’

_Weg-an--to move._

1. From this come the English ‘way,’ which means the space through
which one can ‘_move_.’ 2. To ‘wag’ (the tongue or the head), i.e.
to ‘_move_’ it rapidly. 3. A waggon (sometimes contracted into
‘wain’) is a vehicle which ‘_moves_’ goods, &c., from one place
to another. 4. To ‘sway’ is the intensive of wag--it is to _move_
strongly; and, 5. ‘Swagger’ is the frequentative of ‘sway.’

_Weri-an--to wear._

1. This is the origin of our word ‘to wear,’ in its ordinary sense.
2. From this we have ‘weary,’ the state of being ‘_worn_’ with
fatigue. 3. From the same root come ‘worse’ and ‘worst,’ which are
really the comparative and superlative degrees of ‘_wear_,’ i.e.
‘more worn’ and ‘most worn.’ 4. To ‘worry,’ i.e. to ‘_wear_ out’ by

_Wit-an--to know._

From the root ‘wit’ in this Saxon verb came, in English, 1. The
old forms ‘wist’ and ‘wot,’ together with, 2. The modern word
‘wit,’ and the expression, ‘to wit’--all these imply _knowledge_.
3. We have ‘wise’ (which at first signified _knowing_ much), with
its derivative, ‘wisdom.’ 5. ‘Wizard’ and ‘witch’ are both from
the same source, and were terms originally applied to those who
were supposed to come by their ‘_knowledge_’ by a compact with
the powers of darkness. 6. The word ‘wittingly,’ i.e. of one’s
own _knowledge_; and, 7. A ‘witness,’ or one who tells us what he
‘_knows_’ about some fact.

_Wrid-an--to twist._

This is the source of many English words: 1. To ‘writhe,’ or
_twist_ the body in pain. 2. ‘Wrath.’ When in ‘wrath,’ one is
‘writhed’ or tortured by angry passion. 3. ‘Wry’ and ‘awry,’ i.e.
‘_twisted_’ on one side. 4. To ‘wring’ the hands is to ‘_twist_’
them convulsively. 5. ‘Wrong’ properly means ‘wrung,’ or _twisted_
out of the right path. 6. ‘Wrangle’ denotes a continual distortion
or perversity; and, 7. To ‘wriggle’ is the frequentative of ‘to
wring;’ it means to _twist_ about repeatedly. Beside these, we
have, 8. The wrist, i.e. the joint which ‘_twists_’ or turns
easily; and, 9. To ‘wrest’ and ‘wrestle.’ 10. To ‘wrench.’ These
are all modes of _twisting_. 11. To ‘wreathe’ is to _twist_ or
twine together, and, 13. A ‘wrinkle’ denotes a distortion of a
smooth surface.



_Latin Roots._

English words which indicate mental actions, feelings, or general
abstractions, come to us from a Latin or a French source. These,
though not the most numerous, comprise a very considerable portion
of the English language. It must be understood that French is, in
the main, composed of Latin words; and we may conveniently divide
this portion of the English language into three classes:--1. Words
derived directly from Latin; 2. Words derived indirectly from
Latin, through a French medium; and, 3. Middle-age Latin words,
i.e. those formed from a corrupt Latin by the monks of the middle
ages. These last appear in French in a modified form, and come into
English still further altered in their spelling and pronunciation.

I. In most cases English words of the first class are compounds
or derivatives. We have not adopted the roots themselves, but use
them only in composition, with some particle or preposition. For
example: the Latin root ‘clude’ is never found in English as an
independent word, though we have ‘exclude,’ ‘include,’ ‘preclude,’
&c. It is also to be observed that a Latin verbal root, in many
cases, produces two forms in English; one containing the root
of the verb itself, and the other its participial form. Thus,
the above example will give us ‘exclude,’ from the Latin verb
‘excludĕre,’ and also ‘exclu_s_ion,’ ‘exclu_s_ive,’ from its
participle ‘exclusus.’ If we take any one of these roots, say
‘clud’ and ‘clus’ (shut), we may find it in modern English in a
great variety of forms. From the participial root (clus) come
‘clause’ (a part of a sentence _shut_ in); ‘cloister’ (a place
_shut_ in); ‘close’ (to _shut_ to); ‘closet’ (a small place _shut_
up); ‘recluse,’ one _shut_ out from the world, &c., as well as the
verbs exclude, include, preclude, with their derivatives exclusion,
inclusion, preclusion; the adjectives ‘exclusive,’ ‘inclusive,’
‘preclusive,’ and the adverbs ‘exclusively,’ ‘inclusively,’ &c.
These words are not often found in the vocabulary of the uneducated
classes; they belong rather to the language of books, or to the set
forms of eloquence, than to that of daily intercourse. We should
say, in common parlance, that a boy was _shut out_ of the room by
his companions; but we should hardly say that he was _excluded_.
In a secondary sense, however, such a word would be more properly
adopted. We should say correctly, ‘that such considerations were
_excluded_ from this view of the subject,’ where we could not very
well use ‘shut out.’ Again, we could not properly say that any
one was ‘included’ in a dungeon; meaning that he was ‘shut in.’
Words drawn from these Latin roots have a very wide application in
English, but they are confined chiefly to a mental, and are seldom
used in a physical, sense. Saxon forms the basis of our language,
and is used in practical and domestic matters; while our spiritual
conceptions are expressed by French or Latin words.

Another well-known Latin root is ‘cide’ (from cædĕre, to slay);
which corresponds in meaning with the more familiar Saxon word
‘kill.’ We have, not ‘cide,’ but ‘fratricide,’ ‘matricide,’
‘regicide,’ ‘suicide,’ ‘parricide,’ ‘homicide,’ and ‘infanticide.’
To these may be added, ‘concise,’ ‘precise,’ ‘decision,’
‘incision,’ &c. All the latter are derived from the participle of
the same Latin verb--‘cæsus.’

Again: the root ‘sume’ (sumpt), from the Latin ‘sumĕre,’ to take,
gives us ‘assume,’ ‘consume,’ ‘presume,’ with their participial
derivatives, ‘assumption,’ ‘consumption,’ ‘presumption,’
‘sumptuous,’ ‘presumptuous,’ &c.

The Latin root ‘cede’ (cess) appears in English in two forms
of spelling; one, ‘cede,’ as ‘accede,’ ‘concede,’ ‘recede’; and
the other, ‘ceed,’ as in ‘exceed,’ ‘proceed,’ ‘succeed.’ These
also have their participial derivatives, as found in ‘excess,’
‘success,’ ‘process,’ ‘accession,’ ‘succession,’ ‘procession.’ It
will be seen that in all these cases the rule holds good. _Cry_
is a more household, domestic word, but ‘acclaim,’ ‘declaim,’
‘proclaim’ are used on more important occasions.

The principle of derivation by the change of an internal
vowel-sound prevailed in ancient Latin as well as in Saxon.
Thus, from the Latin verb ‘f_a_cĕre’ (to make or do) was formed
‘eff_i_cere’ (to effect or bring about), the _a_ in the root being
changed into an _i_ in the derivative; and we have English words
from both these sources:--fact, faculty, facility, &c., from
‘facĕre’; and defect, effect, deficient, efficient, &c., from the
other form.

Some of these Latin roots are extremely prolific. For example, the
Latin verb ‘_ten_ere,’ to hold, produces a very large number of
English words. In certain verbs it appears in the form ‘_tain_,’
as in to abs_tain_, apper_tain_, at_tain_, con_tain_, de_tain_,
main_tain_, ob_tain_, per_tain_, re_tain_, and sus_tain_. To
these may be added the derivatives, con_tin_ent, per_tin_ent,
and imper_tin_ent; besides which, we have from the same source,
‘_ten_ant,’ ‘_ten_able,’ ‘_ten_ure,’ ‘main_ten_ance,’ and
‘sus_ten_ance,’ &c.

Again: the root ‘duce’ (from ‘ducĕre,’ to lead) gives rise to
many English derivatives. First we have (through French) the word
‘_Duke_,’ which originally meant the leader of an army. Then come
the verbs to ad_duce_, con_duce_, de_duce_, in_duce_, pro_duce_,
re_duce_, se_duce_, tra_duce_, in all which the idea of leading is
involved. To the same origin may be traced _duct_ile, aque_duct_,
via_duct_, con_duct_, and pro_duct_, besides de_duct_ion,
re_duct_ion, ab_duct_ion, pro_duct_ion, &c.--nineteen or twenty
words from one root!

II. A rule has been laid down to enable us to determine whether an
English word is derived directly from Latin, or filtered from Latin
through French:--‘If the word comes directly from Latin, the only
change it will undergo will be in the ending. Thus “actio” in Latin
will be “actio_n_” in English; “innocentia” will make “innocence;”
“tormentum,” “torment,” &c. But if the word comes through French,
it will be more altered in its passage; it will be disturbed, not
only in its ending, but also internally. Thus “populus” in Latin is
“peuple” in French, and “people” in English. The Latin “thesaurus”
gives the French “trésor,” and the English “treasure.”’ This may be
accepted as a general rule, but it is often impossible to determine
by the outward form of a word whether we derive it directly from
its primitive Latin source, or take it at second hand from the
French. In most cases of doubt the probability is in favour of
the French, for there are still many English words which were at
first spelled, and probably pronounced, as in French, and whose
orthography, and perhaps pronunciation, was afterwards reformed and
brought back nearer to the Latin type. ‘Doubt’ and ‘debt’ are still
pronounced with the _b_ silent; but when first brought into English
they were both written and pronounced as in French--‘doute’ and
‘dette.’ Afterwards, when it became known that they were originally
derived from the Latin verbs ‘dubitare’ and ‘debere,’ the _b_ was
restored in the spelling, though the French pronunciation was
retained; and the same took place with many other Romance words.

There are certain classes of English words from whose outward
form we may conclude that they are of Latin (or French) origin.
First, when an English noun ends in ‘_tion_’ preceded by a
vowel, we may be pretty sure that it is either directly from
Latin, or from Latin through French. Such words as ‘formation,’
‘completion,’ ‘transition,’ ‘commotion,’ and ‘ablution,’ are
derived either directly or indirectly from Latin. We never meet
with this ending in words of purely Saxon origin. The termination
of these was in Latin ‘tio;’ in French they appear in ‘tion;’
and in English the same ending (tion) is adopted. This Latin
ending, ‘tio,’ is, however, sometimes found in French in the form
_son_, which has thus been introduced into certain English words
of this class. The Latin ‘ratio’ gave the French ‘raison’ and the
English ‘reason.’ Again, ‘traditio’ in Latin became ‘trahison’
in French and ‘treason’ in English. But in many cases the French
ending has not passed into English; for the words ‘declinaison,’
‘conjugaison,’ ‘oraison,’ &c., appear in English as ‘declen_sion_,’
‘conjuga_tion_,’ and ora_tion_, i.e. in their Latin rather than
their French forms.

Another large class of originally Latin words appear in English
with the ending ‘_ty_.’ These are all abstract nouns, which in
Latin end in ‘_tas_.’ This final _tas_ is expressed in French by
_té_, and in English by _ty_. Thus the Latin ‘socie_tas_’ becomes
in French ‘socié_té_’ and in English ‘socie_ty_.’ In the same way,
from the Latin ‘bonitas’ come the French ‘bon_té_’ and the English
‘boun_ty_,’ &c.

In many of these cases we find two forms of the same word, each
with its own meaning. One of these tends to the French, and the
other to the Latin, in spelling; and it may be observed that the
French has been more disturbed by contraction, abbreviation, or
inversion than the Latin. For example, the two words ‘secure’ and
‘sure’ are both originally from the Latin ‘securus;’ but the
former is directly from Latin, whereas the latter is from the
French contracted form--‘sûr.’

Another pair of these double forms may be found in ‘hospital’
and ‘hôtel.’ The Latin ‘hospes’ signified either a ‘host’ or a
guest, i.e. the entertainer or the entertained. From ‘hospitalis’
came the contracted French form ‘hôtel,’ in the sense of a house
where guests or travellers are entertained, as distinguished from
‘hôpital,’ where invalids are taken care of. From the French both
these words came into English, each retaining its original meaning.

This principle of a divided meaning is also seen in ‘persecute’
and ‘pursue,’ the latter of which was known in English before we
became acquainted with the former. ‘Pursue’ is from the French
‘poursuivre,’ and is used in the general sense of following after
eagerly. ‘Persecute,’ from the Latin ‘persecutus,’ the participle
of ‘persĕqui,’ is distinguished from ‘pursue’ by the meaning of ‘to
follow after with an intent to injure.’

Two other words of this class are ‘superficies’ and ‘surface.’
The former is pure Latin; and is compounded of ‘super,’ ‘upon,’
and ‘facies,’ a face. But this word is only used in a scientific
or mathematical sense; whereas ‘surface’ has a more general
signification, and means whatever we can see of the outside of any
material substance.

We find a similar difference of meaning, as well as form, between
‘potion’ and ‘poison.’ Both these came originally from the Latin
‘potare,’ to drink. The former is the direct Latin, the latter
the French form, and both are now English. But the second denotes
a species of the first; for ‘poison,’ as is well known, is that
species of ‘potion’ which destroys life.

This power of dividing a word into two meanings is not peculiar to
English; for many instances of it may be found in German, French,
and Italian. But it is of great advantage. It has the effect of
providing a large number of terms to express shades of thought by
slight differences of meaning, and it thus materially assists in
making language a more perfect exponent of human thought.

The following list exhibits some of these double forms:--

  outer      utter
  morrow     morn
  lance      launch
  wine       vine
  wind       vent (peg)
  wise       guise
  why        how
  wagon      wain
  deploy     display
  cattle     chattels
  cross      cruise
  milk       milch
  make       match
  metal      mettle
  nib        neb
  person     parson
  beacon     beckon
  to         too
  tone       tune
  discreet   discrete
  sauce      souse
  scatter    shatter
  stick      stitch
  cap        cape
  quell      kill
  glass      glaze
  grass      graze
    &c.        &c.

III. The third division of this class consists of Low Latin, or, as
they are sometimes called, ‘monkish Latin’ words. These have their
origin in classical Latin; but they are all corruptions of that
language, and were formed at a time when it had fallen into decay.
To this division belong such English words as ‘chance,’ ‘esquire,’
‘ewer’, ‘forest,’ ‘justle,’ ‘manage,’ ‘noise,’ ‘noon,’ ‘pillage,’
‘rear,’ &c. In all these we may recognise a Latin origin, though
the words themselves were unknown to the ancient Romans.

From the Greek verb ‘βάλλειν,’ to cast, probably came the Italian
‘ballo,’ the French ‘bal,’ and the English ‘ball.’ Playing at
ball was, in the middle ages, often associated with _singing_ and
dancing. Hence the Romance word ‘ballare,’ and the Old Spanish
‘ballar,’ which both meant ‘to sing.’ The French ‘ballade’ and the
English ‘ballad’ may be thus accounted for. Apropos of ‘ball,’ it
may be here noted that the word ‘bull,’ as in the ‘Pope’s bull,’ is
derived from ‘bulla,’ the Latin for ‘ball.’ It was the custom, in
the middle ages, after writing any document or letter, to affix to
it a seal in the form of a ‘ball,’ so that the Pope’s ‘bull’ really
means the Pope’s ‘ball.’

Our word ‘chance’ was in old French ‘chéance,’ from ‘cheoir.’ These
are all from the Latin verb ‘cadĕre,’ to fall (out) or happen. The
French adjective ‘méchant’ is derived from the old participle
‘més-chéant,’ from ‘més-choir,’ to fall out badly or unluckily. We
have not adopted this adjective, but our noun ‘mischance’ may be
traced to this source.

A curious case of a modern term derived from compound Latin roots
may be found in our word ‘squire.’ This is made up of the Latin
‘scutum,’ a shield, and ‘fero,’ I bear. Hence ‘scutifer,’ a
middle-age word, meant a shield-bearer, i.e. one who attended on
the knight, and carried his shield. In old French, ‘scutifer’ was
softened into ‘escuyer,’ or ‘écuyer;’ and it afterwards appeared in
English as ‘esquire,’ or ‘squire.’

The old French for ‘water’ was ‘aigue,’ from the Latin ‘aqua.’ From
this was formed the word ‘aiguière,’ a water-vessel; and this is
the origin of our English word ‘ewer,’as in ‘cream-ewer.’

Of the same class is the word ‘forest.’ This did not exist in
ancient Latin, but sprang up in later ages. The monks made the
word ‘foresta’ out of the Latin ‘foras,’ abroad, or out of doors;
the same root which produced the English words ‘foreign,’ and
‘foreigner,’ one who comes from abroad. The monkish Latin form was
‘foresta,’ the French ‘forêt,’ and the English ‘forest.’

Under this head may be also placed ‘comfort’ and ‘courage.’
The former of these is well known to be peculiarly English,
and there is no word in any of the continental languages which
exactly translates it. True, the French are beginning to use
the word ‘comfortáble;’ but it may be fairly doubted whether it
realises with them the same idea as with us. It has evidently a
Latin element; and the second syllable is, no doubt, derived from
the Latin ‘fortis,’ strong. So that, what ‘comforts’ would, in
the first instance, probably mean, what strengthens, and would
especially apply to ‘creature-comforts’--food or drink, which
strengthens the body. Afterwards it would be used in a secondary
and more extended sense.

The Italian word ‘coraggio’ is derived from ‘core,’ as the French
‘courage’ comes from ‘cœur;’ both these being originally from the
Latin ‘cor,’ the heart. From French the word ‘courage’ has passed
into English, where the spelling is the same, though it is somewhat
differently pronounced. But neither ‘comfort’ nor ‘courage’ is
found in classical Latin.

The word ‘contrada’ in Italian and Provençal came into French in
the form ‘contrée,’ and into English as ‘country.’ It is derived
from the Latin preposition ‘contra,’ against; and means, properly,
the part of the land which lies over--_against_--us. But the
word is altogether of modern manufacture. (Compare the German
‘Gegenstand,’ where the meaning is precisely the same.)

The Latin preposition ‘juxta’ has given rise to several words,
both French and English, which did not exist in ancient Latin. The
French ‘joust,’ a combat in which the antagonists rushed at, or
pushed _close to_, one another, is one of these. Also ‘ajouter,’
to add or put one thing _close_ to another. From these we have,
in English, the adverb ‘just,’ as in the phrase ‘just now,’ i.e.
_close_ to the present time; and also the verb ‘to adjust,’ i.e. to
place things _close to_ each other. ‘To justle,’ or ‘jostle,’ is a
frequentative verb, formed from the above adverb ‘just.’

The word ‘danger’ is composed of two Latin roots: ‘damn-um,’
loss, and ‘ger-o,’ I bear; these produced the Low Latin word
‘domigerium.’ This was afterwards corrupted and softened into the
French ‘danger,’ and in that form passed into English.

Our word ‘manage’ is from the Latin ‘manus,’ a hand, through the
French ‘main.’ There was a Low Latin word, ‘managerium,’ which
meant occupation or actual possession, in the sense of holding
in the hand. Thence the word was transferred to the furniture
requisite for the occupation of a house, and, in the shape of the
French ‘ménage,’ to the household of the occupier. The identity of
this word with the English ‘manage’ may be seen in the expression
‘bon mesnagier,’ one who understands how to conduct a household--a
good manager.

From the Latin ‘manēre,’ to remain, or dwell, are derived the
French ‘maison’ and the corresponding English ‘mansion;’ and from
the same source come the English words ‘manse,’ the clergyman’s
dwelling-house, and ‘manor,’ the lord’s dwelling-house.

From ‘minutus,’ the Latin participle of the verb ‘minuo,’ come the
English adjective ‘minúte’ and the noun ‘mínute.’ Properly ‘minuto
primo’ was, in Italian, the first division of the hour; ‘minuto
secondo’ was the _second_, and ‘minuto terzo’ the _third_ division;
which is, in French, ‘_tierce_,’ i.e. the sixtieth part of a
second. The English word ‘mite’ is only a contraction of minute--it
is a minute insect; and a ‘minuet’ is a dance with _short_ steps.

‘Noisome’ and ‘annoy’ are derived from the Latin ‘nocēre,’ to hurt
or injure; whence it may be conjectured also comes ‘noise,’ as
being something that annoys, as a stir, wrangle, or brawl.

The word ‘peel’ means the rind of fruit or the bark of a stick.
This is from the Latin ‘pellis,’ skin, from which comes the French
‘peau.’ The radical sense of this word is, that which is stripped
off, or _pilled_. ‘Pillage’ is a derivative of ‘pill,’ or ‘peel.’
It means a collection of things stripped off, or plundered.

The English word ‘palm’ (of the hand) is from the Greek παλάμη,
through the Latin ‘palma.’ A certain tree is called a palm because
of its broad spreading leaves, which resemble the palm of the hand;
and a palmer was formerly a pilgrim carrying a palm-branch in his
hand, in sign of his expedition to the Holy Land.



One very interesting point in the study of language is the cause
of the introduction of new, and the falling off of old, words. It
is to be observed that a new word is generally ushered in with a
sort of parade--a flourish of trumpets; many writers make a rush
at it, and drag it in, whether applicable or not. Its novelty is
attractive; and it is often used in a sense which really does
not belong to it. But it is not every word thus introduced that
maintains its place: it is often found, after all, that it has
more sound than sense, and is rather ornamental than useful; and
then it is sure to fall into neglect, dies away, and is heard of
no more. On the other hand, in the natural course of things, many
words which have done good service, and for a long period, are
at length discontinued, and give way to new, and sometimes more
useful, terms. These slip out of the language unperceived; they
are no longer wanted--no one enquires for them; some new and more
expressive terms push them out, and they are consigned to oblivion.

It is quite ludicrous to observe how strangely uneducated or
illiterate people use words which, to them, are quite new. They
are so fascinated with their novelty, or, perhaps, with their
sound and length, that they apply them in all manner of odd
and eccentric meanings. Two of these words--‘promiscuous’ and
‘immaterial’--seem to be great favourites with a certain class: an
ignorant Englishman somehow imagines that the word ‘immaterial’
conveys a sort of reproach, and he insults his fellow-workman by
calling him an ‘_immaterial_,’ meaning that he is a fellow of no
worth or respectability. The word ‘promiscuous’ is often used by
the lower orders in the same loose way. A witness in a trial, not
long ago, stated that ‘he met the prisoner “promiscuously” (or,
as he pronounced it, ‘permiskously’) in the streets;’ meaning, by
chance, or casually.

If we trace the history of the English language through the
various phases of its career, from its earliest up to its present
condition, we shall find that it has been continually growing more
Romance and less Saxon. It is said that a process of decay had set
in even before the introduction of Anglo-Saxon into England--that
the language had already lost some of its inflections; and it is
well known that, in process of time, these endings, with some few
exceptions, wholly disappeared. Again, at a later period, many
Saxon nouns which had formed their plurals in _en_ rejected this
form, and adopted the Romance (or French) plural-ending, _s_. At
one time, the word ‘eye’ formed its plural ‘eyne,’ or ‘eyen;’
‘tree’ made ‘treen;’ ‘shoe,’ ‘shoon;’ and even the Romance word
‘uncle,’ ‘unclen.’ These forms have now all departed, and in their
place we have ‘eye_s_,’ ‘tree_s_,’ ‘shoe_s_,’ &c.

The mode of forming a plural by a change of the internal vowel,
which was common in Saxon nouns, has now almost vanished from the
language. We have some few left; but not more than five or six
examples, as ‘tooth,’ ‘goose,’ ‘foot,’ ‘man,’ ‘woman,’ and ‘mouse.’
We may be quite confident that any new nouns brought into English
will form their plurals by the French, and not the German, system.

Again, verbs of strong conjugation are much fewer than formerly.
Many verbs now form the past tense by adding _d_ or _ed_ to the
present which, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, changed
the internal vowel-sound for that purpose. To ‘climb’ formerly
made ‘clomb’ (a form used by Milton in the seventeenth century);
‘quake’ made ‘quoke;’ ‘laugh,’ ‘lofe;’ ‘reach,’ ‘raught;’ and many
others. All these now adopt the weak form of conjugation, and form
the past tense by adding _d_ or _ed_ to the root of the verb:
‘climb-_ed_,’ ‘laugh-_ed_,’ ‘reach-_ed_,’ ‘quak-_ed_,’ &c. And so
it will be with all verbs that may be hereafter brought into the
language; they will, one and all, form the past tense by adding

But not only have we lost these Saxon characteristics: whole lists
of Saxon words have disappeared which once did good service in the
language. This may be easily shown by glancing over a few pages of
Chaucer or Mandeville, where we shall find a multitude of terms
which have been long disused. For example:--

  clepen      to call
  thorpe      village
  grutchen    to murmur
  stound      moment
  sterve      to die
  swappen     to strike
  foryield    to repay
  reden       to advise, &c.

Even in Shakspere and Milton we may find many words which are now
obsolete. All these, again, are Saxon; so that it may be truly said
that our losses have been Saxon, whilst our additions have been all
Romance, i.e. Latin or French.

In most cases substitutions have been made; but we shall always
find that the disused word was Saxon, while the one substituted
for it is French or Latin. Thus, for the Saxon compound
‘monath-seoc’ (month sick) we now have ‘lunatic;’ instead of
‘waeter-adl’ (water-illness), we have ‘dropsy.’ The old Anglo-Saxon
‘eorth-gemet’ (earth-measure) has given way to the Greek
‘geometry;’ and the Saxon ‘witena-gemot’ (meeting of wise men), has
been transformed into the French ‘parliament.’

In all probability it was the influence of the Norman conquest that
assisted this tendency to substitute single terms for compound
words. The French language not being favourable to such formations,
after a time pushed out many Saxon compounds; and yet, in point
of clearness, power, and feeling, the Saxon words were far more
effective. Their separate parts were significant, and familiar to
the commonest understanding; whereas the new word was, of course,
at first altogether foreign, and even after a time was far from
being so impressive as the other. For example, the meaning of the
Anglo-Saxon noun ‘_sige-beacan_’ must have been clear to the most
uneducated mind: ‘sige’ is ‘victory,’ and ‘beacan’ is ‘sign;’
that is, ‘victory-sign.’ Now, for this was substituted ‘trophy,’
which, being a more uncommon word, does not explain itself as the
other, and is, therefore, not so vivid or picturesque. Again,
‘_heah-setl_’ is translated into ‘throne.’ In the former word we
have two distinct ideas, ‘high’ and ‘seat,’ both familiar to the
most illiterate peasant; whereas the word ‘throne,’ though now
common enough, must at first have puzzled the people considerably.

One very expressive Saxon word, ‘_wanhope_,’ has disappeared
from the language. This may be considered a real loss; ‘wanhope’
expressed that condition of the mind in which we have not actually
lost all hope, but when it is beginning to _wane_, i.e. grow
gradually less, and we feel it slipping away from us. ‘Hope’ and
‘despair’ are the two opposite ends of the scale, and ‘wanhope’
formerly expressed an intermediate state of mind. This was a
beautiful word, and we have now no equivalent for it.

A host of Saxon derivatives have also vanished from the language
which were once in common use; and among them may be named those
having the prefix ‘_for_.’ We still retain the words ‘forbear,’
‘forbid,’ ‘forget,’ ‘forgive,’ ‘forlorn,’ and ‘forswear;’ but in
the writings of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries we often meet
with ‘forfend,’ ‘fordrive,’ ‘forsay,’ ‘forspend,’ ‘forwither,’
‘forwaste,’ &c., all of which are now dead and buried. One word of
this class survives, though in a different form, viz. the Saxon
verb ‘fordon.’ This verb, though given up, may be still seen in
the familiar expression ‘_to do for_.’

This tendency towards raising the French at the expense of
the Saxon portion of English may be accounted for by various
circumstances of our history. First, there can be no doubt that
the Norman conquest was mainly instrumental in producing this
effect. This event could not have failed to be unfavourable to
the prosperity of the Saxon. The relation in which the conquerors
stood to the conquered was of itself sufficient to account for it,
and though the enmity between the two races will explain how the
two languages were kept so long separated, when the fusion did
at length take place, the advantage was clearly in favour of the
governing classes.

Another cause of this leaning to the French may have been the
number of French words introduced by Chaucer. The English language
(if, indeed, it then deserved that name) was in the latter part
of the reign of Edward III. only just beginning to be formed. The
Saxon element, which ever since the Conquest had been crushed, was
now lifting its head, whilst the French was somewhat discouraged.
But the language was not then fit for literary, especially for
poetical, purposes; and, therefore, at the very time when it first
appeared as English, a large influx of French words took place.

But this result was assisted by other circumstances. The number of
Huguenot refugees who found shelter in England after the massacre
of St. Bartholomew added materially to the French population of
this country, and assisted in swelling the French vocabulary of the
English language.

In the seventeenth century the marriage of Charles I. and Henrietta
Maria of France could not fail to produce some effect on the
language and literature of the age, and though this French taste
received a check during the rule of Cromwell, it returned with
double force at the Restoration. The foreign tastes acquired by
Charles II. in his wanderings on the continent mainly contributed
to this state of things, and on the return of the Stewarts, the
general tone of the court and nobility, as well as the literature
of the age, was French.

But this was as nothing when compared with the consequences of
Louis XIV.’s revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 1685. We are
told by Mr. Smiles that, in consequence of this cruel and impolitic
act, as many as 400,000 French emigrants found an asylum in this
country. It is impossible that this could have been without effect
on the English language, and although statistics on the subject
are wanting, we may confidently conclude that this immigration
considerably increased the French element of the English language.

There can be little doubt that the style of Latinity which
Johnson adopted also led to the abandonment of many words of
Saxon origin. He was the most weighty authority in England in all
things regarding language, style, and literature, till the year
of his death, 1784; and his numerous imitators, maintaining his
peculiarities of style, still further contributed to the same state
of things. Add to all these influences the general leaning of most
writers of the present day, and we shall not be surprised at the
condition of the English language.

When we consider the numerous and continual attacks which the
Saxon element of English has thus sustained, we may be inclined
to wonder that there should be any of it left--that it should not
have been utterly crushed and annihilated by these raids. But this
wonder will be increased when we find that it not only exists, but
constitutes to this day by far the larger portion of our language.
This is surely sufficient to prove the innate depth, force, and
vigour of that element; and we may fairly conclude that if it has
so far been able to make head against these innovations, it retains
an intrinsic power to resist future attacks of the same nature.

In truth, Saxon is not so much an element as the very basis and
foundation of English. The great body of articles, pronouns,
numerals, conjunctions, prepositions, signs, auxiliaries, &c.--in
fine, all the framework and joints of the language--are drawn from
that source.

There are, however, some French philologists who would have it
that the majority of words in English is much in favour of French.
M. Thommerel gives himself great pains to prove this conclusion,
but apparently on very insufficient grounds; and M. Génin, who
has written some valuable works on his own language, says, in his
‘Variations du langage Français,’ that the English are indebted
to the French for more than three quarters of their language!
‘Les Anglais,’ he writes, ‘ne sont riches que de nos dépouilles;
si l’on se mettait à cribler leur langue, et à reprendre ce qui
nous appartient, il ne leur resterait pas même de quoi se dire:
“Bonjour! comment vous portez-vous?” Leur fameuse formule, _How do
you do?_ est volée à la France.’ The tone of this remark is pretty
evident, and he surely here allows his patriotism to get the better
of his good sense; for he certainly ought to have known that,
though our language is enriched with many French words, the main
body of English, since the fourteenth century, has been, and is at
the present moment, drawn from a Saxon and not a French source.
In the case of ‘How do you do?’ however, he is probably right. He
quotes from several ballads of the twelfth century the expression
‘Comment le faites-vous?’ as then used in the English sense of ‘How
do you do?’ to prove that we have adopted--or rather, as he says,
stolen--this form from the French. It has been suggested that the
verb _do_, in this phrase, is derived from the Saxon ‘dugan,’ to
prosper or prevail, from which comes the more modern ‘doughty;’ as
in ‘_a doughty knight_.’ According to this explanation, ‘How do
you do?’ is equivalent to ‘How do you get on, or prosper?’ But Mr.
Wedgewood, in his ‘Dictionary of English Etymology,’ rejects this
view. He agrees here with M. Génin, that it is a close translation
of the old French ‘Comment le faites-vous?’ And so the matter now

Various circumstances give rise to new words, which either remain
in or depart from the language as they may be found serviceable or
otherwise. One modern importation is ‘_Handbook_.’ This appears
an unnecessary innovation, more especially as we had already a
word which answered the same purpose, and quite as well, viz.
‘_Manual_,’ and which has the additional recommendation of being a
simple, not a compound, word. ‘Handbook’ is of German origin, and
probably owes its introduction to that German influence which came
in with the late Prince Consort. Mr. Murray has largely contributed
to its popularity by his numerous and well-known ‘handbooks,’ and
the word will now most probably retain its place in the language.

D’Israeli the elder claims the honour of having introduced the word
‘_Fatherland_’ into English. This is certainly a useful addition
to our vocabulary. We had before no word to distinguish between
the two Latin meanings of ‘_rus_’ and ‘_patria_;’ ‘country’ being
equivocal in sense, since it may mean either the land of our birth,
or that part of it distinguished from the town. Here the French
have hitherto had the advantage of us: they have ‘patrie,’ for
‘Fatherland;’ ‘pays,’ for a territorial division; and ‘campagne,’
in a rural sense.

The exact date of the introduction of the term ‘_stand-point_’ is
not known, but it is among the new words of about thirty or forty
years’ standing; and we may conclude from its form that it is
German. This word is, no doubt, an improvement on ‘point of view,’
as being a closer, and therefore more convenient, expression. It is
now in common use, especially with writers on mental philosophy.

The noun ‘_antecedent_’ has been hitherto used exclusively as
a term of grammar, but of late years it has appeared in a new
sense. It is now often used, in the plural number, to signify the
actions and general conduct of some one whose reputation we wish
to ascertain. We must inquire, they say, into his ‘antecedents;’
that is, try to find out what he has been doing, who were his
companions, how he has hitherto conducted himself, &c. This is
certainly a convenient term enough. It expresses concisely what
would otherwise require a rather ponderous circumlocution. Mr.
‘Punch,’ with his usual satirical spirit, said that it would
be more satisfactory to know something of a suspected man’s
_relatives_ than of his _antecedents_!

We learn from Lord Macaulay that the word ‘gutted’ was first used
on the night in which James II. fled from London: ‘The king’s
printing-house ... was, to use a coarse metaphor, _which then for
the first time, came into fashion_, completely _gutted_.’

The first writer who used the word ‘anecdote’ was Procopius, the
Greek historian of the reign of Justinian. He wrote a work which he
called ‘Anecdotes,’ or a ‘Secret History.’ The Emperor Justinian
and his wife, Theodora, are here represented as two demons, who
had assumed a human form for the destruction of mankind. Procopius
tells us that he wrote this work as a supplement to his ‘History,’
in which he could not, for fear of torture and death, speak of
some living persons as they deserved. The word ‘anecdote’ is
compounded from the Greek ἀν (an) not, ἐκ (ek) out, and δότα
(dota) given. It thus means a fact not given out or put forth--an
unpublished story. Though this was its original meaning, every
one, of course, knows that we have now whole volumes of published

The ending ‘ation’ is, in English, chiefly applied to Latin roots;
as in ‘consult_ation_,’ ‘cre_ation_,’ ‘don_ation_,’ &c. It is
said that Mr. Dundas, afterwards Lord Melville, was the first to
use the word ‘_starvation_,’ which he introduced in one of his
speeches in the House of Commons, on the American war, 1775. Here
we had, for the first time, a Saxon root--‘starve’--with a Latin
ending--‘ation;’ a hybrid formation. From this circumstance,
we are told that Mr. Dundas was ever afterwards called by his
acquaintances, ‘Starvation Dundas.’ But whatever objection may
have been made to it, the word has now taken a firm hold on the
language, and is used by the best writers as a perfectly legitimate

The mania of modern times for grand terms has produced some very
curious words. Tradesmen, in advertising some new invention or
article for sale, almost always endeavour to attract public
attention towards it by giving it an unusually grand name,
generally from a Greek source, but often a strange combination. To
take a few cases of these mysterious compounds:--‘_Rypophagon_’
Soap. This, it may be presumed, means dirt-eating, or
dirt-consuming, soap. But, as all soap cleanses the skin, why
should this sort be designated as particularly cleansing? Simply
to sell the article. Indeed, we can hardly walk far in the streets
of London without seeing some fantastic term of this sort paraded
in the shop windows. The hair-dresser exhibits his ‘_Auricomous_’
Fluid; and the son of Crispin his ‘_Antigropelos_’ Boots. These
meet us at every turn. One tradesman has lately advertised a
machine which he thinks proper to call a ‘_Dotosthene_;’ by which,
we may conjecture, he means, an instrument for strengthening the

Some years ago the writer, walking up Oxford Street, became aware
of a fellow carrying on his back before him a huge placard, on
which was inscribed the strange word ‘Therapolegeia.’ This was
a decided poser. On rubbing up his Greek, however, he at length
discovered that this curious word might possibly mean, ‘an office
for the registry of servants;’ and so it turned out. But which of
the two parties--the ladies who wished to hire the servants, or
the servants who wanted to be hired--best understood the word
‘Therapolegeia’ is a problem still to be solved.

Tailors--I beg their pardon, _Merchant Clothiers_!--now persist
in calling coats and waistcoats ‘tunics’ and ‘vests;’ and
as for ‘trousers,’ the word is considered far too gross for
ears polite! And what has become of ladies’ bonnets? They are
gone--departed--vanished! but they have left their ghosts behind
them, in the shape of a wretched little bunch of silk and ribbons,
dignified by the name of ‘Head-dress!’

Some of these outlandish compounds are not very intelligible. One
of them--‘Orthopœdic’--is a term applied to an institution lately
established in Oxford Street, for operating on club-feet. The
name is probably intended to raise the establishment in public
estimation, but the form of the word has justly called forth the
censure of some critics. If this word, as seems probable, is meant
to convey the idea of ‘straight-footed,’ the third syllable should
be formed from the Greek ποῦς, ποδός, a foot, and the whole word
should stand ‘orth_o_podic,’ and not ‘orthop_œ_dic.’

‘Stereotype,’ a term now commonly known to printers, and, indeed,
to general readers, was invented and first used by Didot, the
well-known French printer. This word will certainly maintain its
place in English.

The adjective ‘inimical’ is said to owe its origin to Mr. Windham,
who first introduced it in one of his speeches in the House of
Commons about eighty years ago. It is useful to mark a distinction
between private and public enmity; ‘inimical’ having the first, and
‘hostile’ the second, meaning. But the word is not very popular, in
spite of its four syllables, and does not appear to make its way.

The great French Revolution of 1789, as might have been expected,
brought forth many new words, some of which have been adopted in
English. One, destined to become a very prominent feature of the
times, was ‘Guillotine.’ This well-known instrument was named after
its inventor, Dr. Guillotin. How or why they made it feminine, by
adding to it an _e_, is not clear; but the word now stands ‘_La_
Guillotin_e_,’ and has secured for itself a permanent place in the
French language.

Other words which were the offspring of those dreadful times have
disappeared from common use and parlance, and are only occasionally
referred to as memorials of the age which produced them. Such
are the new names then given to the months; as ‘Brumaire,’
‘Vendémiaire,’ ‘Fructidor,’ ‘Thermidor,’ &c. When the fury of the
revolutionary spirit was at length exhausted, and things were
brought back to their former condition, these words naturally
fell into disuse, and at last disappeared. There were, however,
others belonging to this period which seem to have taken a stronger
hold on the people’s mind, and which form to this day part of the
legitimate vocabulary of the French language. In this class may be
named ‘fusillade’ and ‘noyade:’ those horrible wholesale shootings
and drownings of the Vendéans which formed such a frightful
picture of that awful period. ‘Terroriste’ first appeared under
Robespierre’s administration; and the assassins of the unfortunate
prisoners in September 1792 were termed ‘Septembriseurs.’

It is natural to suppose that political names would be born with
the parties which they designate. The terms ‘Whig’ and ‘Tory’ were
never heard of till the close of the seventeenth century; and it
is curious that there is much obscurity concerning the etymology
of both these words. All that is positively known on the subject
is, that the first is of Scotch, and the second of Irish, origin.
‘Whig’ was first applied to the Scotch covenanters, and ‘Tory’ to
the Popish outlaws who favoured the cause of King James II. in
Ireland. It may be remarked, by the way, that these two words,
though not wholly extinct, are now much less frequently heard
than formerly. Different circumstances of political warfare
have introduced new terms in both these cases. ‘Tories’ became
‘Protectionists’ during the great debates on the Corn-Laws; and now
they call themselves ‘Conservatives.’ The Whigs, again, appeared
on one occasion as ‘Reformers,’ and they are at present known as

The name ‘Puritan,’ as applied to a religious sect, still
flourishes in English. It was first heard of in the reign of Queen
Elizabeth, and then given as a nickname to a party which would
have even reformed the Reformation. These ‘Puritans’ affected a
superhuman purity of morals, and hence their name. They were also
sometimes called ‘Precisians,’ from their excessive fastidiousness
about insignificant matters (this latter word has now fallen out of

The distinction between ‘Roundhead’ and ‘Cavalier’ first appeared
during the civil war between Charles I. and his Parliament. The
‘Roundhead,’ in his sour and sullen spirit, condemned all outward
ornament, and wore his hair cropped close; thus showing the _round_
form of his _head_; in contradistinction to the chivalrous tone,
the romantic spirit, and the _flowing locks_ of the Cavalier.

The opprobrious term ‘_Gueux_’ (Beggars) was adopted in 1566
by the Dutch revolters against the rule of Philip II. Margaret
of Parma, then governor of the Netherlands, being somewhat
disconcerted at the numbers of that party, was reassured by her
minister, Barlaimont, who remarked to her, that there was nothing
to be feared from a crowd of ‘beggars.’ The party of confederates
accepted this name, and prided themselves on it; and in every
language in which the history of the revolt of the Netherlands has
been written, this French term, ‘gueux,’ is used to designate these

Many popular authors, presuming on their own authority, have
endeavoured to introduce new and strange terms into the English
language. Coleridge, in his work ‘On Church and State,’ makes use
of the following extraordinary words:--‘Influencive,’ ‘extroitive,
‘retroitive,’ and ‘productivity.’ Bentley uses:--‘Commentitious,’
‘aliene,’ ‘negoce,’ and ‘exscribe.’ But no other writers adopted
these words: a clear proof that they were not wanted.

Charles Lamb used, in his writings, several words which have not
succeeded in maintaining a place in the language. Among them may be
named, ‘agnise,’ ‘burgeon,’ and ‘arride.’

Again, any subject of temporary excitement will generally give
birth to some new words. The Indian Mutiny gave us ‘to loot;’ and
during the American civil war, we made our first acquaintance
with ‘secesh,’ ‘skedaddle,’ and ‘stampede.’ Words born under such
circumstances may be long- or short-lived: some maintain a place in
the language, others have but a brief existence; they ‘fret their
hour upon the stage,’ and then are heard no more.

We have also many examples of words which originated in some
question of passing interest, and which, though the causes of
their first appearance have long since passed away, still remain
in our language, and do us excellent service there. The general
belief in astrology in the Middle Ages left us several words of
this class. Though we no longer believe that the position of the
stars can affect our fortunes, we still use the word ‘disaster,’ in
the sense of a calamity or misfortune. From the same source come
the adjectives, ‘jovial,’ ‘mercurial,’ ‘martial,’ and ‘saturnine.’
These express qualities supposed to belong to those heathen gods
whose names were given to the constellation under which any one was
born. In astrological phraseology a man’s fortune is still said to
be _in the ascendant_, or to _culminate_. Both these expressions
were first used by the astrologers, and referred to certain stars
which, when they had risen to their greatest height, were believed
to portend prosperity. The word ‘aspect,’ though now expressing the
general appearance of things, was first applied, astrologically,
to the physical appearance or outward view of the heavens; and
‘lunatic’ was first used in the sense of one supposed to be
mentally affected by a change of the moon.

Other superstitions have produced words of a like nature. The
ancient Roman divination may be still traced in our English words
‘augur,’ ‘auspice,’ ‘omen,’ &c. The left hand was always regarded
by the ancients as portending ill-luck; and hence our modern word
‘sinister,’ which at first meant simply ‘left-handed,’ has now come
to signify ‘foreboding evil.’

‘Its,’ the possessive form of the neuter personal pronoun, is of
comparatively late introduction into our language. In Anglo-Saxon,
the same form served for both the masculine and neuter possessive;

           m.     f.      n.
  Nom.     He    heo      hit.
  Gen.    _His_  hire    _his_.

At first, the nominative neuter, ‘it,’ was used for the possessive
neuter, of which many instances occur in Shakspere. See ‘King
John,’ act. ii. sc. 1: ‘Go to _it_ grandame, child.’ The same may
be found in the authorised version of the Scriptures (of 1611); see
Leviticus xxv. 5: ‘That which groweth of “_it_” own accord.’ But
in this translation the word ‘its’ is not once found. Genesis i.
11: ‘The tree yielding fruit after _his_ kind.’ Mark. ix. 50: ‘If
the salt have lost _his_ saltness,’ &c. Milton avoids the use of
‘its.’ It seldom occurs in his prose works, and there are not more
than three or four instances of it in his poems. The precise date
and occasion of the first introduction of ‘_its_’ into the English
language have not been ascertained, but it was probably early in
the seventeenth century. It is said that the ‘Rowley’s Poems’ of
Chatterton was detected to be a forgery by the presence of the word
‘_its_’ several times in the MS. Rowley was represented as a monk
of the fifteenth century, when the word was certainly not in the

_New French Words._

M. Génin, in his chapter on the age of certain French words and
phrases, mentions the following cases:[1]--

1. ‘Désagrément’ and ‘renaissance;’ mentioned by Père Bouhours as
new words in 1675, two years after the death of Molière.

2. ‘Insidieux’ and ‘sécurité;’ established in the language by

3. ‘Sagacité;’ first found in the works of St.-Réal and Balzac.

4. The sixteenth century was remarkable for an irruption of
diminutives, introduced chiefly by the influence of Ronsard and
his school. Most of these are now lost; but two of them, viz.
‘historiette’ and ‘amourette,’ are retained.

5. It was Ménage who first used the word ‘prosateur.’

6. The negative words ‘intolérance,’ ‘inexpérimenter,’ ‘indévot,’
‘irréligieux,’ and ‘impardonnable’ were subjects of much discussion
about the end of the seventeenth century, and did not take root in
the language till the eighteenth.

7. The Abbé St.-Pierre first used the word ‘bienfaisance.’

8. St.-Évremond discusses the word ‘vaste,’ remarking that it was
then new, and not firmly established.

9. Ronsard first used ‘avidité,’ and ‘ode;’ and Baïf introduced
‘épigramme,’ ‘aigredoux,’ and ‘élégie.’

10. In the seventeenth century, the literati of the Hôtel
Rambouillet produced several new words: Ségrais gave to the French
language ‘impardonnable;’ Desmarets, ‘plumeux;’ and Balzac,

The members of the Port-Royal also furnished their contingent of
new words, which the Jesuits of course condemned as ridiculous and
detestable. Among these new terms were ‘hydrie’ and ‘amphore.’ The
first appears in a translation of Ecclesiastes xii. 6: ‘Antequam
conteratur _hydria_ ad fontem’--‘Before the _pitcher_ be broken
at the well.’ The second, ‘amphore,’ was used in a translation of
Horace’s ode, ‘Ad Amphoram.’ But ‘hydrie’ was not destined to live,
and has become obsolete; ‘amphore’ is still retained.



One point to be observed in the nature and history of words is
their tendency to contract in form and degenerate in meaning.
A word which, in the beginning of its career, has generally a
favourable, or at any rate a not disparaging, meaning, becomes,
as it grows older, weaker in effect and more contracted in form
and signification, and, in most cases, falls into an unfavourable
sense. It does not improve or extend, but contracts and
deteriorates in meaning. Archbishop Trench uses this fact as an
argument to prove the perversity and evil tendencies of mankind;
and it must be admitted to have considerable force. Take the two
verbs, to ‘resent’ and to ‘retaliate.’ The first of these means,
etymologically, ‘to feel back,’ or ‘feel in return.’ Of course, one
may feel kindly or unkindly, according to circumstances: but we
now never use this word in a favourable sense. We are never said
to ‘_resent_’ kindness or affection; but only injury, slander, ill
deeds, &c. Again, the derivation of ‘retaliate’ is from the Latin
‘re’ (back) and ‘talis’ (such); and it would naturally signify,
‘to give back such’ (as we have received). But we now retaliate
offences or indignities, and never favours or benefits. These words
were, however, once used in a much more extended sense. Dr. South,
a celebrated preacher of Charles II.’s time, in one of his sermons
has the expression, ‘resenting God’s favours,’ which, according to
the present restricted meaning of the word, would seem to a modern
reader positively blasphemous. But in the seventeenth century the
word ‘resent’ implied good as well as bad feeling; gratitude for
benefits received as well as anger for injury done.

This tendency to degenerate will appear, perhaps, more evidently if
we inquire into the original source of certain English words which
are now used as the strongest terms of reproach in the language.
Among these may be named, ‘_thief_,’ ‘_villain_,’ and ‘_vagabond_.’

The first is of Saxon origin. ‘_Theow_’ was a term originally
applied to one of the servile classes of the Anglo-Saxon
population, and in its first sense implied no reproach. But, as
people in this position had many temptations to fraud and deceit,
the word at length came to have its modern signification; i.e. it
degenerated into the present meaning of ‘thief.’

‘_Villanus_’ was, in Latin, first used in the sense of a
farm-servant; but as those in this capacity acquired a bad
reputation by their immorality and brutal violence, the whole class
was stigmatised; and thus the word ‘villain’ now conveys, as every
one knows, a very different sense from that of farm-servant.

There is no particular reproach conveyed in the etymology of
‘_vagabond_.’ It meant at first simply a wanderer. But as the
habits of a wanderer are likely to become unsteady, irregular,
and reckless, this term, in course of time, degenerated into its
present acceptation. It is now always associated with the ideas of
a loose morality and want of sobriety.

‘_Prejudice_’ is another of those words which have gradually got
rid of their favourable meaning, and are, in most cases, used in
a bad sense. It is true, we sometimes say ‘prejudiced _in favour_
of’ some person or thing; but, without this specification, there
is always a leaning towards the bad sense of the word. And yet the
derivation shows simply, ‘a _judgment_ formed _before_ sufficient
reflection,’ whether favourable or otherwise.

In the same class may be placed ‘_animosity_.’ In Latin,
‘animosus’ meant courageous, full of soul, vigour, and ardour.
Now, it is wholly confined to the sense of a violent feeling of
anger, hatred, and resentment. In fine, it has lost all its beauty.
There is no longer the least trace of anything noble in the word

The words ‘_simple_’ and ‘_simplicity_’ still retain something
of their original charm, but it is much to be feared that they
are more frequently used in a contemptuous sense. We speak of a
‘simple’ fellow, as of one who is easily cheated or duped; one
wanting in shrewdness; anything but ‘_knowing_;’ which, by the
way, is another term which has degenerated into an unfavourable

It may seem strange, but it is certainly true, that the word
‘_good_’ which is naturally associated with everything high, pure,
and noble, both in morals and intellect, has partaken of this
general tendency downwards, and is often used in the sense of
‘able to pay,’ or ‘having sufficient means to discharge’ debts.
This use of the word is found in the language as far back as
Shakspere’s time. In the ‘Merchant of Venice,’ Shylock says to
Bassanio:--‘Antonio is a _good_ man?’ and when Bassanio asks him
‘if he has heard any imputation to the contrary,’ he replies:--‘My
meaning in saying he is a _good_ man, is to have you understand me
that he is sufficient.’ This is still the common acceptation of
the word with city men; with them, a _good_ man is one who has a
large balance at his banker’s.

If we look into the original meaning of the word ‘_cunning_,’ we
shall find that it was not at first used in its present bad sense.
This is one of a numerous Saxon family, based upon the type ‘_kn_’
or ‘_cn_;’ as ‘ken,’ ‘know,’ ‘can,’ ‘king,’ ‘cunning,’ &c. We find
in Psalms cxxxvii. 5:--‘If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right
hand forget her “cunning,”’ where the word is used for skill or
art. This meaning is now seldom applied, while the word has kept
its sense of deceit or slyness.

The same may be said of ‘_craft_.’ It had at first a good as well
as a bad sense. It meant ability or dexterity, as well as fraud
or artifice. Now its bad meaning is in the ascendant. If the
favourable sense is sometimes intended, this is the exception, not
the rule.

Indeed, there are many English words which, though not taken in a
positively unfavourable sense, have yet a tendency that way--which
require qualifying, if we wish them to be understood favourably.
For instance, if we speak of any one’s ‘_curiosity_,’ meaning that
he has an inquiring spirit, it will be necessary to explain that
we mean a well-directed, and not a prying, impertinent curiosity;
for, without that explanation, it will be certainly understood in
the latter sense. In fine, when there are two meanings to a word, a
right and a wrong, the evil is sure to prevail.

The words ‘_critic_’ and ‘_criticise_’ are in precisely the same
condition. These words do not of necessity imply fault-finding.
A critic is simply a judge; he may have to praise as well as
to blame; but every one knows full well that to ‘criticise’ is
generally looked upon as synonymous with ‘to censure,’ and, unless
qualified, is sure to be understood in the latter sense.

In the very copious vocabulary of words which have ‘fallen from
their high estate,’ or undergone a pernicious transformation,
may be also ranged the word ‘_fellow_.’ In some cases it retains
a certain respectability, as when we speak of the ‘Fellow of a
college.’ Shakspere makes Hamlet say of Yorick, the jester:--‘He
was a “fellow” of infinite jest,’ where the sense is certainly
not intended to be disparaging. But now-a-days ‘fellow’ is, on
the whole, not looked upon very favourably. It is suggestive of
recklessness and disorderly conduct, and, unless qualified, is not
a very complimentary term.

As to the word ‘_knave_,’ it is irrecoverably lost. It is the
lowest and most degrading term we can apply as a reproach and an
insult; and yet it meant originally nothing more than ‘boy,’ as
‘Knabe’ does to this day in German. By what process the ‘boy’
became a ‘knave’ may be a speculation, but the word has obviously
lost its former good name.

This perversity of human nature in turning words into an opposite
and unfavourable meaning may also be seen in many familiar and
every-day forms of speech. It is not uncommon to hear an abandoned
fellow spoken of as a ‘precious’ scoundrel, or some absurdity
referred to as ‘blessed’ nonsense. This perversion is not confined
to English. The French often use the word ‘sacré’ in a sense
diametrically opposed, to ‘holy,’ a meaning which existed in Latin,
from which French is derived. Virgil’s ‘auri “_sacra_” fames’ is
properly translated ‘_accursed_ lust for gold.’ The Latin ‘altus’
also conveyed the distinct and opposite meanings of ‘high’ and

Also the English word ‘silly’ has degenerated from ‘selig,’ which
in German preserves its meaning of ‘blessed;’ and ‘ninny’ took its
origin from the Spanish ‘niño,’ where it means simply ‘a child.’

Another example of a change for the worse may be seen in the word
‘prevent.’ The Church Service gives us this word in the literal
sense of ‘to go before, or guide:’ ‘_Prevent_ us, O Lord, in all
our doings,’ &c.; and in the Collect for the 17th Sunday after
Trinity:--‘We pray Thee that Thy grace may always “_prevent_”
and follow us.’ But this is not the present sense of the word;
it has now always the meaning of ‘to stop,’ rather than to guide
onwards--the very opposite of its former signification. This, like
other words, has degenerated.

_Contradictory Meanings._

Connected with this degeneracy of words is one very curious
phenomenon, viz. that in English we frequently meet with the same
word in two distinct meanings, directly opposed to each other. For
example, the verb ‘to let’ has generally the meaning of ‘to give
leave,’ or ‘allow.’ This is its ordinary acceptation, but in the
still common legal phrase, ‘without let or hindrance,’ it has the
very opposite meaning.[2] Again, Hamlet says:--‘I’ll make a ghost
of him that “lets” me,’ i.e. him that interferes with or hinders
me, where the sense is again the very reverse of the usual meaning.

The verb ‘to cleave’ is another case of this contradiction of
meaning. ‘To cleave’ may mean either ‘to adhere to closely’ or ‘to
cut asunder.’[3] When we say the tongue ‘_cleaves_’ to the roof of
the mouth, it is used in the first sense; but the directly opposite
meaning is implied when people talk of ‘_cleaving_’ wood, i.e.
cutting it into parts.

We may use the word ‘fast’ in two senses, opposed to each other. It
conveys the idea either of quiet rest or of rapid motion. ‘The door
was _fast_ locked,’ means that it was fixed and not to be moved;
whereas in the sentence, ‘He runs _fast_,’ it expresses quickness
of motion.

To this class also belongs ‘nervous,’ which means either
_possessing_, or _wanting_ nerve. When ladies are said to be
‘nervous,’ we understand that they are weak, timid, easily
frightened; in fine, wanting nerve. On the other hand, a ‘nervous’
style is one marked by vigour and energy. One use of the word
represents the absence, and the other the presence, of nerve.

When Shakspere makes Hamlet say, ‘Would I had met my _dearest_ foe
in heaven,’ he means, ‘my most hated foe.’ As extremes are said to
meet, so does this word express the extremes of love and hatred.

The adjective ‘fearful’ will also illustrate this principle. It
means either ‘affected by fear’ or ‘inspiring fear.’ The word
‘mortal’ is in the same condition. Its usual sense is ‘subject to
death,’ but it is also used subjectively, as ‘producing death.’
Hence the difference between a ‘mortal wound’ and a ‘mortal being.’

‘To look’ may be understood in two opposed senses. When we say, ‘a
man _looks_ well into his affairs,’ the word is used in its active
meaning; but if we should say, ‘he _looks_ well,’ it would mean
that he appears to others to be in good health.

The word ‘mistaken’ also is equivocal in meaning. ‘I am mistaken’
may mean ‘I make a mistake,’ or ‘Others mistake me.’ This
perversity appears in various forms. When we say that a tradesman
‘_sells_ his goods,’ the word ‘sells’ is employed in a subjective
sense; but we not unfrequently hear that his goods _sell_ well,
where the same term is used objectively. In these cases, the
active form is used in a passive sense, and not _vice versâ_. ‘A
_walking_-stick’ does not mean a stick that walks, but a stick to
be walked with. Nor is a ‘_drinking_ cup’ one that drinks, but one
to be drunk out of.

This difference of subjective and objective meaning may be
especially observed in that class of adjectives which ends in
‘able’ or ‘ible;’ such as, ‘port_able_,’ ‘pli_able_,’ ‘vis_ible_,’
‘leg_ible_,’ &c. Most of these words have a passive or objective
sense. ‘Portable’ means ‘that which _can be carried_;’ ‘visible,’
‘that which _can be seen_.’ But some of these convey an active or
subjective meaning. For example, ‘comfortable’ does not mean ‘_what
can be comforted_;’ but ‘_that which comforts_.’ A ‘comfortable’
house or room is one which comforts the inmates. ‘Terrible,’ again,
does not mean ‘capable of receiving terror;’ but able to produce
that feeling in others. A ‘terrible’ accident is one which inspires
terror in the beholders. This active or subjective meaning is,
however, the exception. Most of this class of words are used in a
passive or recipient sense.

Another case in which this contrariety of meaning may be
observed is in the use of the prefix ‘_in_.’ This prefix has, in
general, the force of a negative; as may be seen in the words
‘_in_complete,’ ‘_in_capable,’ ‘_in_delible,’ &c. But there are
certain adjectives in which it conveys a positive or intensive
meaning, i.e. the very opposite to the negative. When we say that
some one’s health was ‘_invigorated_,’ we do not mean that it was
weakened; but, on the contrary, that it was very much strengthened.
Instead of depriving the word of any of its meaning, the ‘_in_’
here adds force to its positive signification. Some of this class
are, ‘_in_tense,’ ‘_in_fatuated,’ ‘_in_veterate,’ ‘_in_valuable;’
but most of them are used in a negative sense.

We occasionally meet with much confusion of sense in the
application of some English words. We commonly say that a man
_marries_ a woman, and also that a woman _marries_ a man; in
addition to which, the clergyman _marries_ them both. Perhaps, as
the word ‘marry’ is derived from the French ‘mari,’ and the Latin
‘maritus,’ a husband--which is from ‘mas, maris,’ a male, and marks
a difference of sex--it would be better to say, a man ‘marries’ a
woman, and a woman ‘is married to’ a man; and the priest joins them
in marriage. The use of the good old Saxon word ‘wed’ would obviate
all these difficulties; but, unfortunately, it is now much out of
fashion, and indeed rapidly disappearing from the language, though
the noun ‘wedding’ still holds its place.

There is a tendency to contract or restrict in meaning certain
words of our language whose etymology would allow of their being
used much more extensively. This, in many instances, seems to be
caused by that deteriorating principle before mentioned; for, in
all these cases, the favourable meaning is ignored, and the bad one
retained. The word ‘condign’ is never used but with ‘punishment,’
though its meaning might be reasonably applied to honours,
merits, or rewards. ‘Condign’ rewards would be rewards worthy
of the receiver’s actions. ‘Condign’ honours would mean honours
appropriate to certain merits, &c.

The adjective ‘inveterate’ is in precisely the same predicament.
It is never applied to a good feeling, but always to some bad
passion. We commonly hear of inveterate resentment, malice, hatred,
animosity, &c.; but we never meet with inveterate love, kindness,
affection, or attachment. And yet why not? The true meaning of
‘inveterate’ is _what has gained strength by age_; and it is clear
that this quality would apply reasonably enough to such feelings as
love, kindness, or affection. An anecdote is told of Lord Byron,
that in a letter to one of his friends, he subscribed himself,
‘Yours inveterately, BYRON.’ This was, of course, done in a playful
spirit; but the word was perfectly well applied; and it is a pity
that this example had not been generally followed.

In this class we may place the words ‘animadvert’ and ‘insinuate.’
The first of these signifies literally to notice or observe (animum
vertere ad), to turn the mind to; but there is always coupled with
it the idea of censure or punishment. But surely we may observe in
order to praise as well as to blame!

Again, ‘to insinuate’ is generally connected with a crooked
procedure of the mind. When people ‘insinuate,’ the result looked
for is rather evil than good. It is opposed to a straightforward
mode of action.

On the other hand, certain French words have been admitted into
English in one sense, which many writers show a disposition to
extend. But this should be checked, and these words should be
confined to their legitimate meaning. For example: the French verb
‘demander’ is properly translated into English by ‘to ask.’ In
English, ‘_to demand_’ should be only used in the sense of to ask
as a right, in a case where justice must be satisfied, and should
not be applied to general cases. The French say, ‘demander pardon,’
but we English ‘beg’--we do not ‘demand’--pardon.

‘To _assist_,’ meaning to do a service, is good English; but in the
sense of ‘to be present,’ it is French, and not English. We may
‘assist’ a man in his work, or by giving him advice, &c., but we
cannot properly write that some one ‘assisted’ at a supper, if we
mean that he was one of the guests.

To ‘_arrive_’ is another of the French words adopted in English
whose sense must not be stretched beyond its legitimate bounds.
When it signifies ‘to come to,’ it is properly applied; but in the
sense of ‘to happen,’ it is not English. We may say, ‘Our friends
are arrived;’ but we must not ask, ‘What has arrived?’ if we mean
‘What has happened?’

The verb ‘to _accord_’ is constantly used for ‘to give,’ or ‘to
grant,’ probably because it has two syllables instead of one. ‘To
accord with’ is properly used in the sense of ‘to agree,’ or ‘to
suit,’ as:--‘This arrangement “accords” with my views;’ but to say
that ‘he “accorded” his friends the use of his library,’ would be a
wrong application of the word. In the phrase, ‘according with,’ the
word is a participle; in ‘according to,’ it is a preposition.

The mistake made in the word ‘_allude_’ is in using it for ‘to
mention’ or ‘to state.’ ‘To allude’ properly means merely to hint
at, or suggest; and it should never be used in the other sense.
This, again, seems to arise from the idea that it is not so common
a word as the others, and it is therefore adopted--as if the object
of writing should be to confuse and puzzle the reader!

Now and then, however, we meet with words which retain their first
favourable acceptation, and have not been degraded to a lower
sense. Some few, indeed, have been ennobled, i.e. raised from a
comparatively humble meaning to a higher dignity. In the first
of these classes we may place the verb ‘_to reward_;’ and we are
labouring under a certain difficulty in consequence of its being
confined to the one meaning. We very much want a word which would
signify a just return for ill deeds; for, though we use the noun
‘retribution’ for this purpose, the verb ‘to retribute’ is not in
common use. The verb ‘to reward’ is always used in a favourable
sense. We can hardly say that ‘a felon was _rewarded_ for his
crimes.’ We speak of the ‘rewards’ of goodness or virtue, but not
of the ‘rewards’ of wickedness or immorality.

Of those words which have been elevated in meaning, we may mention
‘angel,’ ‘martyr,’ and ‘Paradise;’ all three referring to religious
matters. These are all of Greek origin. ‘Angel,’ from ἄγγελος,
was at first merely ‘a messenger;’ but it is now used only in a
higher sense--‘a messenger of God.’ We certainly should not think
of calling an errand-boy ‘an angel.’ ‘Martyr,’ from μάρτυρος, a
witness, is now applied only to one who by his death bore witness
to the truth of Christianity. A witness who gives evidence in
a trial cannot now be called a martyr. Again, ‘Paradise,’ from
παράδεισος, has been raised from the ordinary sense of ‘garden’ to
that of Garden of Eden, or place of bliss. Cases of this sort are,
however, comparatively rare.



There are, in all languages, certain words which may be called
equivocal. Such are either those which are spelled exactly alike
and have different meanings, or are spelled differently and yet
have the same pronunciation. In most of these cases the two terms
have no necessary connection with each other, though it has
probably puzzled many a reader that the same word should have such
a variety of meanings so distinctly different from each other.
This phenomenon may be accounted for in English by the condition
of our language, especially its mixed nature. English draws words
from a multiplicity of sources. It frequently happens that several
distinctly different forms of foreign words fall into one and the
same form when incorporated into English, each of them retaining
its original signification. This may explain how the word ‘_light_’
may mean something that burns bright, and may also have the
sense of ‘not heavy.’ In the first case, it is derived from the
Anglo-Saxon verb ‘leohtan;’ but, as an adjective, it comes from
the Saxon ‘liht,’ whence also is derived the verb ‘to light’ (or
‘to alight’), i.e. to come down gently. The verb ‘to lighten,’ in
an electrical sense, is connected with the first meaning; but ‘to
lighten,’ meaning to make less heavy, is from the second.

But it sometimes happens that the same root will produce two
different meanings; and of this the word ‘_court_’ will furnish
an example. In the Middle Ages, the yard or court attached to
every castle (so called from the French ‘_cour_’) was used for two
purposes: 1st, as a place for games or amusements; and, 2nd, where
criminals were tried and sentenced. This is why a king’s palace is
still called ‘a Court.’ We say ‘the Court of St. James,’ or ‘the
Court of the Tuileries,’ &c.; and this is also why buildings where
law proceedings are carried on have the same name; as in ‘the Court
of Queen’s Bench,’ ‘the Court of Exchequer,’ &c.

The adjective ‘fine,’ in the sense of handsome or beautiful, is
from the Saxon ‘fein,’ where it had the same meaning; but, in the
expression ‘in fine,’ it is from the French ‘enfin,’ and the Latin
‘finis,’ an end or boundary. Again, the noun ‘fine,’ meaning a sum
of money paid as a compensation for a misdemeanour, is from the
same source, ‘finis;’ for here it means the limit or _end_ to which
the law con_fin_es the magistrate in determining that sum--‘_Not
more_ than forty shillings,’ &c.

Another of this class is the noun ‘_sack_.’ In its ordinary
acceptation it means a large bag, and is derived from the
Anglo-Saxon ‘sacc’ and the Latin ‘saccus.’ Hence comes the verb. To
‘sack’ a city is to carry off the plunder in a ‘bag.’ But another
meaning of this word is found in ‘sack,’ a sort of wine. Here it is
a corruption of the French ‘sec’ (originally the Latin ‘siccus’),
dry. ‘Un vin sec’ is what we should call ‘a _dry_ wine.’

These double meanings have probably in all nations given rise
to various perversions and corruptions of the language. One of
these--viz. punning--has been particularly prominent in modern
times, and has, in some degree, infected the great majority
of writers. Though the nations of antiquity seem to have been
comparatively free from this literary vice, there are not wanting
examples of it in the ancient classics. There is a collection
of so-called jokes, or silly sayings of pedants, attributed to
Hierocles, though it is now believed to have been the work of
another hand. Most of these would be now considered intolerably
stupid; and the only one among them that has the least approach to
wit is the story of the father who writes to his son urging him
to study hard, as he would have to _live_ by his books. To this
the son replies, that he had been already _living_ by his books
for some time, as he had been obliged to sell them. In Latin a
softened expression for ‘a thief’ was ‘homo trium literarum,’ a man
of three letters (f. u. r.); and Disraeli the elder mentions in his
‘Curiosities of Literature’ two puns attributed to Cicero.

But the true source of modern punning must be looked for in Italy,
where it took rise after the revival of learning in the fifteenth
century, and whence this practice afterwards spread into all the
languages of Europe. In English, the vice of playing on words
infected all the writers of the Elizabethan period. Puns are sown
broadcast in Shakspere’s plays--even Milton is by no means free
from them; and it is hardly necessary to state that they form a
prominent feature in the drama and light literature of the present

Addison defines a pun, in the sixty-first number of the
‘Spectator,’ as ‘a conceit arising from the use of two words that
agree in the sound, but differ in the sense.’ Now the punster deals
in these equivocal words; and his whole art consists in using them
in one sense where we should naturally expect another. There are in
English several classes of equivocal words:--

I. Where the same form has several meanings, as 1. ‘Fair’
(beautiful, or light-coloured). 2. ‘Fair’ (just, or equitable). 3.
‘Fair’ (a market-place).

II. Where two words of different meaning are pronounced alike,
though spelled differently; as ‘son’ and ‘sun,’ ‘some’ and ‘sum,’
‘sole’ and ‘soul,’ ‘peer’ and ‘pier,’ &c.

III. A third class is of those which are spelled differently, and
pronounced nearly, though not quite, alike; such as ‘baron’ and
‘barren,’ ‘season’ and ‘seizing,’ &c.; though these more frequently
produce Malaprops than puns.

IV. There are also many cases in which a phrase or idiom,
consisting of two or three words, may be used equivocally, and
these may be fairly considered as puns.

Of the first class the following are specimens:--

1.        ... beauty’s purchased by the _weight_,
      Which therein works a miracle in nature,
      Making them _lightest_ that wear most of it.

         _Merchant of Venice_, Act iii. sc. 2.

2.    At one light _bound_ high overleaped all _bound_.

         _Paradise Lost_, Book iv.

3. Dean Ramsay tells a story of a Scotch minister who, having to
preach at some distance from home, was caught in a shower of rain.
On arriving at his kirk, he got a friend to rub down his clothes,
anxiously asking if he thought he was _dry_ enough. The latter
replied, ‘Never fear; you’ll be _dry_ enough when you get into the

Under the second division may be placed such puns as the

1.    Not on thy _sole_, but on thy _soul_, harsh Jew,
      Thou makest thy knife keen.

         _Merchant of Venice_, Act iv. sc. 1.

2.                                I should be still
      _Peering_ in maps for ports, and _piers_, and roads.

         _Ib._, Act i. sc. 1.

3. A story being told in the presence of Theodore Hook of an author
who invited his publisher to dinner, and treated him to a great
variety of wines--‘Then,’ said the wit, ‘I suppose he poured his
wine-_cellar_ into his book-_seller_.’

4.    They went and _told_ the sexton,
      And the sexton _tolled_ the bell.--_Hood._

5.                             I find
      The shadow of myself formed in her eye,
      Which, being but the shadow of your _son_,
      Becomes a _sun_, and makes your _son_ a shadow.

         _King John_, Act i. sc. 2.

To the third class belong such cases as:--

1. That of the lady who said that her doctor had put her on a new
_regiment_, and allowed her to drink nothing but water. ‘Ah!’
replied some one present, ‘that must have been the _coldstream_.’

2. Under this head also come the sayings of Mrs. Malaprop in
the ‘Rivals,’ who talks of the ‘_contagious_’ (for contiguous)
countries; and who recommends a nice _derangement_ (arrangement) of
_epitaphs_ (epithets), &c.

3. It is a positive vulgarism to confound ‘_genus_’ (a class, or
sort) with ‘_genius_’ (a high intellectual power). This is exactly
what Goldsmith meant, when he put into Tony Lumpkin’s mouth:--

      Good liquor, I’ll stoutly maintain,
      Gives _genus_ a better discerning.

In the fourth class may be placed punning by the use of an
equivocal phrase.

1. It was this form of the pun that Sydney Smith used when, hearing
of a boy who always read the word ‘patriarchs’ as ‘partridges,’
declared it was too bad _to make game_ of them in that way.

2. In this class we may also place Douglas Jerrold’s well-known
reply to a friend who told him he was afraid he was going to have a
_brain_ fever. ‘Never fear, my friend,’ said the wit, ‘_there is no
foundation for the fact_.’

3. The story related of Sydney Smith, who recommended the bishops
_laying their heads together_ to make a wooden pavement, may be
placed in the same category, and here the wit is quite as pungent
as in the other cases.

4.    For if the Jew do but cut deep enough,
      I’ll pay it instantly _with all my heart_.

            _Merchant of Venice._

The instances of a play on words we meet with in Milton are not so
much puns, properly so called, as what the Italians called conceits
(concetti). This poet was deeply imbued with the spirit of Italian
literature; and this form of it often appears in his verses. The
following passages are examples:--

1.          _Highly_ they raged against the _Highest_.

2.    _Surer_ to _prosper_ than _prosperity_ could have _assured_ us.

3. The same form appears occasionally in other poets. Cowper in his
‘Conversation’ has

      His only _pleasure_ is to be _displeased_.

One form of the pun which is just now not so frequently used is the

1. ‘There’s _something in that_,’ as the cat said when she peeped
into the milk-jug.

2. ‘I’m _transported_ to see you,’ as the convict said to the

3. ‘_You are very pressing_,’ as the nut said to the nutcracker, &c.

Punning has been generally considered a low form of wit; and some
have taken so unfavourable a view of it as even to declare that
‘he who will make a pun will pick a pocket.’ But all this is hardly
just; for it may be easily shown that the highest minds have not
hesitated to adopt it, and that in some writers it is a prominent
feature of their style. It is true that critics have frequently
condemned punning as a flaw in Shakspere’s style and manner; but
it should be remembered that it was one form of that Italian tone
which coloured all the English literature of the Elizabethan age,
and from which no writer of those times was wholly free. We surely
cannot utterly condemn any form of expression adopted by so great
a master; and though it may be admitted that an immoderate use of
puns should not usurp the place of the higher and more important
qualities of style, there seems no good reason why they should be
wholly excluded.

The late poet Thomas Hood was so remarkable for the way in which
he used puns, that they formed an essential characteristic of his
style. Though looked upon by the purist as a contemptible figure
in literature, the pun proved in his hands a source of genuine
humour, and sometimes of deepest pathos. It is a received axiom,
that a keen perception of the ridiculous is a conclusive proof of
real genius; and this opinion certainly holds good in his case.
In him it was perfectly compatible with the deepest sympathy and
intensity of feeling. In every form of wit the effect consists
chiefly in the novelty of the application presented by the figure.
This always produces surprise--a naturally pleasing sensation,
especially when caused by a ludicrous or grotesque image. But,
in some instances, a pun suggests a far higher tone of thought
than the mere ludicrous: it may be connected with or produce very
sober reflections, or even occasionally lead the mind to a deeply
philosophical speculation:--

             ... ridentem dicere verum
      Quid vetat?

In the popular conundrum which has been attributed to Burke, ‘What
is (m)ajest(y), when deprived of its externals, but a jest?’ this
effect may be observed, as well as in many of Hood’s puns.

In the literary history of all nations, we find languages
affected by various peculiarities. Of these several, more or less
connected with punning, have, at different periods, prevailed in
English, viz. Alliteration, Rhyme, Euphuism, &c. Alliteration
was the principle on which the Anglo-Saxon poets founded their
versification. This has been called ‘head-rhyme,’ as distinguished
from end-rhyme, which is a more modern practice. The lines were
arranged in couplets grouped, not according to the sense, but to
the alliteration, which required that _two_ accented syllables
in the first, and _one_ in the second line, should begin with
the same letter when a consonant; and a different, if possible,
when a vowel. These three initial letters were called ‘rhyming
letters,’ the one in the second line being the _chief_ letter,
according to which the two in the first line of the couplet must be
regulated. These two, though they come first, are therefore called
‘_sub_-letters.’ In a couplet, there should not be more than three
accented syllables beginning with this letter; and the _chief_
letter must begin the first accented syllable or word of the second

Finally: in very short verse, especially when the rhyming letters
are double, such as _sc_, _st_, _sw_, &c., there need be but
one _sub_-letter. This is the general doctrine of alliteration,
invariably adopted in Saxon poetry.

The following specimen of alliteration, extracted from Rask’s
Anglo-Saxon Grammar, may serve to illustrate this explanation:--

  In _Caines_ _c_ynne               In Cain’s kin
  Þone _c_wealm gewrǽc              The murder avenged
  _É_ce Drihten                     The Eternal Lord
  Þaes þe he _A_bel slóg            Because he slew Abel
  Ne ge_f_eah he þære _f_aehde      He got no joy from his hatred
  Ac he hine _f_eor forwráec        But he (the Creator) drove him
  _M_etod for þý _m_áne             For that misdeed
  _M_ancynne fram                   Far from the human race

But though no longer considered as an essential element in English
verse, alliteration was often employed by all our poets from
Chaucer to Spenser, though not according to the strict rules above
laid down. Spenser used it, in some cases, with much effect, as
shown in the following lines from the ‘Faëry Queen’:--

      In _w_ilderness and _w_asteful deserts strayed.
      Through _w_oods and _w_asteness _w_ild him daily sought.
      _F_rom her _f_air head her _f_illet she undight.
      And with the sight amazed, _f_orgot his _f_urious _f_orce.

There is more alliteration in our modern poets than most readers
suspect; and though an immoderate use of this figure makes it
degenerate into a mere fantastic puerility, many examples may be
quoted where it adds a wonderful force to the expression. For
example, in the following lines from Macbeth:--

      That shall, to all our days and nights to come,
      Give _s_olely _s_overeign _s_way and masterdom.

The grandeur of the effect is here powerfully assisted by the
repetition of the letter _s_.

But the fondness of certain rhymesters for this figure was cleverly
caricatured by the brothers Horace and James Smith, in their
well-known ‘Rejected Addresses’:--

      Lo! from _L_emnos _l_imping _l_ame_l_y,
      _L_ags the _l_ow_l_y _L_ord of Fire!

Rhyme may be almost considered a modern invention; it is seldom met
with in Greek or Latin, and was unknown to the Saxon poets. This
repetition of the same sound at the ends of verses was introduced
into England by the Anglo-Norman ballad-writers at, or soon after,
the Conquest. Since that time it has been regarded as one of the
greatest embellishments of poetical expression, and it is now
used in almost every form of poetry except blank verse. There is
no doubt that it deserves this reputation, though here, as in
other decorations, much of the effect depends on the judgment and
taste with which it is applied. Many a beautiful thought has been
probably sacrificed to the rigid requirements of rhyme; at the same
time many so-called rhymes are so unlike each other in sound as
scarcely to deserve the name.

The effect of rhyme is materially heightened when there is a real
or fancied connection in meaning between the rhyming words; such
as ‘wine’ and ‘divine,’ ‘life’ and ‘strife,’ ‘fish’ and ‘dish,’
‘lone’ and ‘moan,’ &c. It is also curious to observe how often
familiar proverbs are formed upon this principle. We have ‘Birds of
a _feather_ flock _together_;’ ‘’Twixt cup and _lip_ there’s many
a _slip_;’ ‘Fast _bind_, fast _find_;’ ‘No _pains_, no _gains_;’
&c. And this is not confined to English proverbs. In the same way
the Italians have, ‘Chi va pi_ano_, va _sano_, e va lont_ano_;’ and
the Germans, ‘Morgenst_und_ hat Gold im _Mund_;’ ‘Ueber _Nacht_ ist
wohl ge_dacht_;’ ‘Wer _neidet_, der _leidet_,’ &c. The object in
these cases was, probably, to produce a pleasing effect, and, at
the same time, to assist the learner’s memory.

Another proof of the popularity of rhyme may be found in many
double terms which are evidently formed on that principle. These,
though not often met with in the higher styles of composition,
are legitimate words in every-day and familiar conversation, and
have every right to be so considered. Such are ‘helter-skelter,’
‘namby-pamby,’ ‘hoity-toity,’ ‘roly-poly,’ ‘harum-scarum,’
‘willy-nilly,’ ‘nolens-volens,’ ‘hugger-mugger,’ and a host of

A particularly ludicrous effect is frequently presented by double
rhymes, which properly belong to the comic or burlesque in verse.
Here there is often as much wit and humour in the rhyme as in the
sentiment; and here, also, the rhyme frequently approaches to the
nature of a pun.

Butler was distinguished for his double rhymes, and in his
‘Hudibras’ he displays a positive genius for comic rhyme, some
specimens of which follow:--

      As if religion were in_tended_
      For nothing else than to be _mended_.

      Madam, I do, as is my _duty_,
      Honour the shadow of your _shoe tie_.

      An ignis fatuus that be_witches_,
      And leads men into pools and _ditches_.

      He was, in logic, a great _critic_,
      Profoundly skilled in ana_lytic_.

      Besides, he was a shrewd phi_losopher_,
      And had read every text and _gloss over_.

      Compound for sins they are in_clined to_,
      By damning those they have no _mind to_.

Another form of comic verse is where the rhyme is made by dividing
the word, being formed by a similar sound in the middle syllables;
as for example:--

      Thou wast the daughter of my _Tu_-
      tor, Law professor in the _U_-
      niversity of Göttingen.--_Canning._

      At first I caught hold of the _wing_,
      And kept away; but Mr. _Thing_-
      umbob, the prompter man,
      Gave with his hand my chaise a shove,
      And said, ‘Go on, my pretty love,
      Speak to ’em, little Nan.’--_Smith._

John Lyly, a dramatist and poet of the Elizabethan period, is
said to have originated a singular affectation of language known
as ‘Euphuism.’ He was the author of a romance entitled ‘Euphues;’
in which the ‘pure and reformed English,’ as he called it, first
appeared. It became the fashion with the beauties of the court
to ‘parley Euphuism,’ which was soon considered a necessary
accomplishment for every one who had any pretensions to fashion or
good taste. Euphuism was made up of almost every sort of folly of
language combined, a mincing prettiness, alliteration, punning,
pedantry, elaborate nonsense, and far-fetched expression; in fine,
of almost every conceivable form of puerility. This was a mere
passing absurdity, and the only remains of it still left in the
language are said to be certain new modes of pronunciation then
first introduced.

Language has been, like most other things, subject to many and
various abuses. Anagrams, chronograms, acrostics, &c., have,
each and all, ‘fretted their hour upon the stage, and now are
heard no more.’ But the pun seems likely to maintain its place,
both in conversation and in written composition. Let us not be
misunderstood. It is not the practice, but the abuse of it, that
is to be condemned. We are strongly of opinion that there can be
no greater pest to society than the inveterate and professional
punster--a man who sets traps for you, who lies in wait for every
phrase you utter, to twist and turn it into a meaning of his own,
and who is continually stopping the natural flow of discourse, and
bringing it to some ‘lame and impotent conclusion.’ But, as we
have endeavoured to show, the pun, when ‘telling’ and well-applied,
is as legitimate a form of wit as any other, and quite as conducive
to good feeling and good fellowship.



In the order of nature, names would be first given to concrete
objects and their qualities, and to visible acts, i.e. to those
things and acts which are made known to us through the senses. But
whatever may have been the principle which determined the original
form of these words, it is well known that, in all languages,
the same vocabulary was afterwards used in a mental or secondary
sense. No new words were invented for the expression of thought or
feeling, but all the acts of the mind and soul were represented
by terms originally applied in a concrete sense. In a word, the
abstract was derived from the concrete. The original concrete
sense of the verb ‘to see’ was, to take in knowledge through the
eye, but the same word was afterwards used abstractly. ‘I see’ may
signify ‘I have the proper use of my eyes;’ and may also mean, ‘I
understand or perceive with my mind.’ A blind man cannot see in
the first of these senses, though he may in the second. To hear, to
taste, to touch, &c., have all these double meanings. There may be
some words not found in a secondary sense; but, on the other hand,
a very large number have lost their original physical signification.

In English, most of the words which express operations of the mind
are drawn from a Latin, French, or Greek source. These were all
originally used in a concrete sense, which in English is now lost.

Horace, in his well-known ninth Satire, has:--

      _Occurrit_ quidam notus mihi nomine tantum.

‘Occurrit’ cannot be here translated by ‘occurred.’ The word, in
English, has lost its concrete, and retains only its abstract,
meaning. With us, ideas or thoughts may ‘occur’ to the mind, but we
cannot properly speak of a friend ‘occurring’ (i.e. meeting) us in
the street.

One essential difference between ancient and modern languages
consists in the relation between abstract, or mental, and concrete
expression. The languages of antiquity possessed a much nearer
relation to the original, primary sense of words. In them, all the
abstract had a much closer affinity with the concrete terms from
which they were derived. The Latin word ‘spiritus’ had not only
its abstract meaning of ‘cheerfulness,’ or ‘courage,’ but also its
concrete sense of ‘breath;’ whereas, in modern languages the word
has only an abstract sense, and it is only by a knowledge of its
etymology that we can get at its material origin. The result of
this loss is most complete when a modern, formed upon an ancient
language, is no longer in direct communication with the roots of
the words used. In this respect ancient languages possessed a charm
for which nothing can compensate, and, when in the hands of a great
poet, they produced most wonderful effects. But the condition of
modern languages is, in this respect, very different. Here, most
of the abstract words, being deprived of their original concrete
meaning, are, to the general reader, mere conventional signs,
wholly unable to produce that vividly picturesque effect found
in the ancient tongues. And herein chiefly lies the value of a
knowledge of derivation. For, although a word may now have lost its
original meaning, it is of the greatest importance that its primary
signification should be known, in order to arrive at a clear
knowledge of its exact and accurate modern application. We commonly
speak of a man ‘_applying_’ himself to his work. To the general
reader this conveys the idea of giving his mind or attention to
what he is about; but to those who are ignorant of the etymology
of the word ‘applying,’ the picture of the man _bending_ his body
to his task is wholly lost. And not only as regards the true
meaning of the single word, but as concerns the difference in
signification between terms apparently synonymous, this knowledge
will be of the greatest importance. The difference in meaning
between ‘to instil’ and ‘to inculcate’ is to be understood only
by a knowledge of their etymology. To the ordinary reader both
these words have the general meaning of ‘to teach,’ or instruct;
but it is only he who knows the meaning of their roots who will
understand that nice difference in the mode of teaching which they
respectively describe. The process of ‘dropping in’ knowledge by
degrees, conveyed by the former word, paints a very different
picture from the ‘stamping in’ of the latter.

Some of our poets occasionally use abstract, especially Latin
words, in a primary meaning, which they, properly, no longer
possess. We may look upon this practice as a licence which may
be conceded to poets; but we should never adopt it in common
conversation, or in ordinary writing. Milton is especially addicted
to this practice. When he speaks of ‘Heaven’s _afflicting_
thunder,’ he uses the word ‘afflicting’ in its original primary
sense of striking down bodily. The reprobate angels are thus
represented as being hurled down from heaven. But this is not
the present use of the verb ‘to afflict.’ It means to prostrate
as to mind or feeling, and is never used in a concrete sense. If
one man should meet another in anger and _knock_ him _down_, we
should not call that _afflicting_ him; and yet this is the sense
in which the word is employed in the passage referred to. In the
same poet we meet with ‘horrent’ (for bristling) arms; ‘savage’
(for woody) hill; and ‘amiable’ (for lovely) fruit, &c. Thomson,
in his poem of ‘Winter,’ has, in like manner, ‘With dangling ice
all _horrid_’--the last word, in the sense of rough or bristling.
Modern usage does not sanction this application of such words in
ordinary discourse or writing.



The almost universal mania for violent excitement and craving
after novelty, which is so marked a feature of modern society,
is, perhaps, in no instance more offensively obtrusive than in
the style of most of our present periodical writers. It seems
impossible for them to call things by their proper names. They
reject all simple words, and are continually soaring above their
subject into the regions of the sublime and magnificent. As long as
a word is out-of-the-way, unusual, or far-fetched, it is apparently
of little or no consequence to them whether it be applicable to
the case or not. The commonest and most familiar objects are thus
raised to a dignity quite out of keeping with their real nature;
and here, if anywhere, is verified the saying that ‘from the
sublime to the ridiculous there is but one step.’ Everything is
sacrificed to a false glare and glitter of language, and sense is
always made subservient to sound. Those beautiful English words
‘boys’ and ‘girls’ are almost banished from our modern vocabulary.
‘Boys’ and ‘girls’ are transformed into ‘juveniles;’ ‘workmen’ have
become ‘operatives;’ and ‘people’ in general are now ‘individuals.’
These ‘individuals,’ be it observed, are never ‘dressed,’ but
always ‘attired’ or ‘arrayed;’ they are never ‘angry,’ but often
‘irate;’ they never ‘go into a shop,’ though they sometimes
condescend to ‘enter an emporium,’ or perhaps a ‘depôt;’ and
when they return home, they never ‘take off their things,’ but
‘divest themselves of their habiliments.’ Another practice with
these writers is to substitute for single terms milk-and-water
definitions of them. With them, a ‘fire’ is always ‘the devouring
element;’ a ‘man’ is ‘an individual of the masculine gender;’
a ‘footman’ is a ‘superb menial;’ and a ‘schoolmaster’ is the
‘principal of a collegiate institution.’

This style originated in the penny-a-line system. It abounds in
our second and third-rate magazines, and, with some few honourable
exceptions, has infected all the periodical and light literature
of the day. The word ‘individual’ has the merit of possessing five
syllables; whereas ‘man,’ or ‘person,’ has but one or two, and
for this reason alone is rejected for the other word. But if Dean
Swift’s definition of a good style--‘Proper words in their proper
places’--is to have any weight as an authority, it is certainly
here not carried into practice. These high-flown terms are very
well in their proper places, but they are not adapted to the cases
to which they are applied, and therefore they are neither proper
words nor in their proper places. The worst of this practice
is, that it deprives all the sound sterling part of the English
language of its peculiar force and significance. Words that are
seldom used will at length inevitably disappear, and thus, if
not checked in time, this extravagance of expression will do an
irreparable injury to the English language.

Another habit of these periodical writers is to sacrifice the idiom
of the language to their love for some particular word. Two verbs,
of which they seem especially fond, are, ‘to commence’ and ‘to
essay.’ These are French words, and are always preferred before
their corresponding Saxon synonyms, ‘to begin’ and ‘to try.’ But
in their liking for them, these writers are often betrayed into an
incorrect phraseology. To ‘begin’ may be followed by an infinitive
or a gerund. We may say, ‘he began to read,’ or ‘he began reading.’
Not so may the verbs ‘to commence’ and ‘to essay’ be used. These
do not, correctly, take an infinitive as an object. We cannot say,
properly, ‘_he commenced to read_,’ or ‘_he essayed to do well_.’
In such cases we must use ‘begin’ and ‘try.’ But the latter are
not sufficiently elevated to suit the views of the penny-a-liners,
and are therefore rejected.

Another of these grand words is ‘intoxicated.’ In the newspapers,
for once that we read of a man being drunk, we find at least
nine or ten times that he is intoxicated. The word ‘drunk’ is
unfortunately too often required in our police reports; but the
reporters are either too squeamish, or too much inclined to the
long word, to hesitate in their choice. ‘Intoxicated’ has five
syllables; ‘drunk’ has but one: so that the odds in favour of the
former are literally as five to one. But even then they are not
satisfied: they add to it ‘_with drink_,’ thus putting two more
syllables to the phrase. We generally read that ‘the prisoner was
intoxicated with drink.’ This form of expression must occupy at
least a line of the printed matter, and is therefore worth to the
writer--exactly one penny!

The use of the verb ‘replace,’ as frequently seen in the writings
of the periodical press, is open to objection. When anyone (we will
suppose) quits his office, they write that he was ‘replaced’ by
another, meaning that some one else filled his place. But the verb
‘to replace’ has not, correctly, this meaning. It signifies ‘to put
back in its place.’ If I take a book from the library shelf, and,
after reading it, put it back again, I _replace_ it; but I cannot
properly say that one man ‘_re_placed’ another in his office, if
I mean that he took his place. There seems to be here a confusion
between the two French verbs, ‘remplacer’ and ‘replacer.’ The first
means ‘to put _in_ the place of another,’ _i.e._ to furnish a
substitute; and the second is, ‘to put back in its own place.’

Another common fault is the use of the word ‘abstractedly’ for
‘abstractly.’ A man speaks ‘abstractedly’ when his mind is drawn
away from the subject before him; here, his manner is abstracted.
But a man speaks ‘abstractly’ when he treats of the ideal and not
the real--the abstract, and not the concrete. Here his subject is
abstract. Again: ‘to choose,’ or ‘to decide,’ is much too common a
term to suit the taste of these modern article-writers. According
to them, people never ‘choose:’ they always _elect_. We continually
read, for example, that some one ‘elected’ to go abroad, rather
than that he decided or determined on taking that step.

Three words of suspicious length and somewhat mysterious meaning
have been lately added to our vocabulary, viz. ‘rehabilitate,’
‘solidarity,’ and ‘desirability.’ These seem to be great
favourites, especially with news-writers. They talk of the
‘_desirability_’ of ‘_rehabilitating_’ our relations with a
certain continental State, in order to effect a ‘_solidarity_’
between the two nations!

One phase of this leaning to the grandiose style is an affectation
of foreign words and phrases. The extent to which this practice is
carried by some writers is extraordinary. They can scarcely call
anything by its proper English name, but must apply to it some
Italian or French word. Such writers describe people as ‘_blasés_,’
or perhaps as having ‘_un air distingué_;’ and these people are
said to do everything ‘_à merveille_.’ Some few Italian phrases are
also occasionally introduced, such as ‘_in petto_,’ the ‘_dolce far
niente_,’ &c.; and the style of many writers learned in the ancient
classics is in like manner infected with Greek and Latin words and



Since, before the invention of printing, there was no standard of
English spelling, our orthography can have no history before that
epoch. The variety of forms in which words appeared was endless;
for not only did different writers spell them differently, but one
writer would often present his readers with several forms of the
same word even in the same page. During the whole of our early
history, then, the language can hardly be said to have had any
fixed laws of spelling.

The orthography of Anglo-Saxon itself seems to have been very
unsettled. Few words appeared invariably in the same form, and
some had as many as three or four different modes of spelling. We
find ‘ác’ and ‘æc’ (oak); ‘lang’ and ‘long’ (long); ‘geaf’ and
‘gef’ (give); ‘seolf,’ ‘self,’ and ‘sylf’ (self); ‘sweaster’ and
‘swuster’ (sister); ‘heauwod’ and ‘heafod’ (head), &c. &c.

The accent also made a difference in both the pronunciation and
meaning of some words. Thus, ‘ís’ meant ice, but ‘is’ (without the
accent) was the 3rd singular present of the verb ‘to be.’ ‘God,’
in Anglo-Saxon, was, in spelling and meaning, our word ‘God;’ but
‘gód’ (pronounced ‘gōād’) was our adjective ‘good,’ &c.

The marked difference in form between the Saxon and the early
English was the substitution of _e_ for the Saxon endings _a_, _e_,
and _u_. Thus, ‘nam_a_,’ ‘end_e_,’ and ‘wud_u_’ appeared in early
English as nam_e_, end_e_, and wood_e_ (probably pronounced as two
syllables). At a still later period there was a tendency to get
rid not only of this _e_, but of the whole system of Anglo-Saxon
inflections; and the nouns, adjectives, and verbs were stripped of
nearly all their endings.

The only two inflections of the noun which survived this decay,
and which may be traced to the present time, were the _es_ of the
possessive (or genitive) singular, and the _as_ of the subjective
(or nominative) plural. The Saxon for ‘of a smith’ was ‘smid_es_,’
and the nominative plural of the same word was ‘smid_as_.’
Wiclif often uses ‘_is_’ as a plural ending, as in ‘hous_is_,’
‘barel_is_,’ &c. Caxton writes ‘thyng_es_,’ and More, tyth_es_,
arrow_es_, &c. Now the usual ending is _s_; as in ‘book_s_,’
tree_s_, &c.

All the inflections of the adjectives also fell off; and instead
of ‘god_ne_’ (acc. sing.), ‘god_es_’ (gen. sing.), ‘god_um_,’
‘god_re_’ (dat. pl.) these endings disappeared, and the word was
reduced in all its cases and genders, and in both numbers, to ‘gód’
(good), as we now have it.

The verb lost its gerund, or rather the latter was confounded with
the participle in _ing_; so that ‘writtane’ (for the purpose of
writing) was used indiscriminately with ‘writende’ (writing); and
many other terminations, though they did not wholly disappear, were
weakened by the substitution of _e_ for _a_, or _en_ for _an_, as
‘bærn_en_’ for ‘bærn_an_.’ Afterwards the participle ending was
changed from _ende_ to _and_, thence to _inge_, and at last to
_ing_, as we now have it. Thus:--‘writende,’ ‘writand,’ ‘writinge,’

Between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries there was a constant
and increasing tendency to throw off the final _e_. Chaucer,
Wiclif, and other writers of the fourteenth century, have numbers
of words written with that ending, where it is now omitted, as
‘child_e_,’ ‘hert_e_,’ ‘fynd_e_,’ &c. But, in taking away this
final, it became necessary, in some cases, to make another change
in the spelling, in order to prevent a mispronunciation. The
earlier form ‘mete,’ being deprived of its final _e_, would leave
‘_met_.’ Therefore, to preserve the long sound, the _e_ medial was
doubled, and the word stood ‘_meet_.’ The same principle operated
in transforming ‘cloke’ into ‘cloak,’ ‘yere’ into ‘year,’ ‘scole’
into ‘school,’ ‘grete’ into ‘great,’ &c. The _e_ final being taken
away, it was necessary, in order to preserve the pronunciation, to
lengthen the internal vowel.

The art of printing exercised a very powerful influence over
English orthography. The first printers assumed at once an absolute
power, not only in the matter of spelling and punctuation, but even
in cases of expression and grammatical forms. The result was far
from favourable to uniformity; for, as every printer had his own
views on the subject, each consequently differed from the others,
and this entailed endless confusion. The author’s punctuation and
spelling were then always sacrificed to the printer’s convenience.
If the writer used any words of doubtful or unsettled orthography,
of which there was then a very large number, the printer assumed
it as his right to add to, or take from them as many letters as he
thought proper, to suit the length of the line. Many blunders also
arose from the ignorance of the copyists. The various manuscripts
of one poem sometimes differ so widely from each other, that modern
scholars have supposed these varieties to have been the result
of the author’s own revision. But the more probable cause of
these differences is that the manuscript was copied by a number
of different hands, and that consequently each differed from the
other according to the views of such matters which each copyist had

We may safely conclude that in orthography, as in other matters,
changes will take place. The phonographers say that, as the whole
object of writing is to represent on paper the sounds of the human
voice, every word should be spelled exactly as it is pronounced.
But there are grave objections to this view. First, pronunciation
itself is in a state of transition--as the present differs from the
past, so will the future differ from the present--and therefore
the spelling would have to be changed as often as the words were
differently pronounced. Secondly, there are so many, and such
delicate shades of sound in the human voice, that, to carry out
this design properly, it would be necessary to invent innumerable
characters to represent them. The remedy, then, would be worse than
the disease, for the multitude of new and strange characters which
this system would require would be far more puzzling to a learner
than any of the existing difficulties.

On the other hand, the conservative party maintain that the
proposed changes in spelling should not be admitted because they
would obscure, if not destroy, the derivation of words. This
argument has certainly considerable force. In the study of English,
a knowledge of derivation is quite as important as correctness of
spelling. Surely the one should not be wholly sacrificed to the
other. Are we to lose the essence of the word for the mere sake
of its outward appearance? It would certainly be a great gain to
simplify our forms of spelling; but if, in so doing, we destroyed
the etymology of the language, would our gain or our loss be the
greater? The present forms of spelling are, in many cases, a key
to the derivation of the word. How did the _b_ get into ‘dou_b_t’
and ‘de_b_t,’ or the _g_ into ‘fei_g_n’ and ‘impu_g_n?’ These
letters are left in the words expressly to show us their origin.
When first introduced into English, ‘debt’ and ‘doubt’ were both
written and pronounced as in French (‘dette’ and ‘doute’). But when
it afterwards became known that they were originally derived from
the Latin verbs ‘de_b_ēre’ and ‘du_b_itare,’ the _b_ was restored
in the spelling.

Some argue that the influence of derivation on spelling is only
partial, and that other and more powerful causes are operating
changes in the forms of words. It is readily admitted that the
language will, _in time_, yield to this pressure. But we must
not precipitate matters; and there is something to be said on
the other side of the question. The study of English has lately
received a great impulse, and increased attention has been paid
to its nature and origin. It is surely somewhat inconsistent to
recommend this increased energy of study, and, at the same time,
to throw obstacles in the student’s way! It is remarkable how long
it takes to work a change of this sort. The writer can remember
the controversy about the substitution of the final _or_ for _our_
for more than forty years back; and yet in that time very little
progress has been made in the proposed reform. But there are
obviously certain tendencies in the English language towards a new
orthography, and we may point out with tolerable certainty what
changes will be eventually effected.

The law of contraction is in constant operation in the spelling
of words. It is this principle that has caused us to reject the
final _k_ in words of two or more syllables. _K_ final is now
confined chiefly to monosyllables. We retain it in ‘back,’ ‘peck,’
‘stick,’ ‘rock,’ ‘duck,’ &c. Formerly ‘music,’ ‘critic,’ ‘traffic,’
&c. retained the k; now it has disappeared from these words. But
it is evidently very loth to go; for it still holds its place in
‘attac_k_,’ ‘ransac_k_,’ ‘bulloc_k_,’ ‘hilloc_k_,’ &c., as well as
in compound words, as ‘shipwrec_k_,’ ‘weathercoc_k_,’ ‘wedloc_k_,’
&c. It is possible that, at some future time, we shall be writing
‘bac,’ ‘pec,’ ‘stic,’ ‘roc,’ and ‘luc;’ but for the present we
must, in these cases, add the _k_.

The same contracting tendency affects the forms of certain past
tenses of verbs. We write ‘sent’ for ‘sended,’ ‘built’ for
‘builded,’ &c. Some would extend this contraction to all verbs
ending in close consonants, as _p_, _ck_, _f_, or _s_. They would
have us write ‘slapt,’ ‘drest,’ ‘hisst,’ ‘hopt,’ and ‘snufft.’
There is, no doubt, a leaning this way in the language. The verbs
‘creep,’ ‘feel,’ ‘sleep,’ &c. make, in the past tense, ‘crept,’
‘felt,’ ‘slept,’ &c. But it will be some time before such forms as
quafft, peept, pickt, hopt, and supt are generally adopted.

This contracting principle also originated the tendency to omit
the _u_ in the termination _our_. Most of the words which have
this ending come to us from Latin through French, where the ending
is _eur_, as seen in ‘honn_eur_,’ ‘vigu_eur_,’ ‘val_eur_,’ &c.
American writers leave out the _u_ in all these cases. They write
‘endeav_or_,’ ‘neighb_or_,’ behavi_or_, &c. There is, no doubt, a
tendency to omit the _u_ in such words. It may be observed that
most of the words which have lost this _u_ are names of agents,
as ‘act_or_,’ ‘auth_or_,’ ‘creat_or_,’ ‘doct_or_,’ ‘govern_or_,’
‘orat_or_,’ ‘sail_or_,’ ‘tail_or_,’ and ‘warri_or_;’ whereas
comparatively few abstract nouns have rejected it, though it no
longer appears in ‘err_or_,’ ‘horr_or_,’ ‘stup_or_,’ ‘terr_or_,’
and ‘torp_or_.’

Another pair of endings--_ise_ and _ize_--has given rise to a
divided practice in spelling. The leaning here is decidedly towards
_ise_. The words tempor_ise_, advert_ise_, author_ise_, &c. were
all formerly written with a _z_. Strictly speaking, _ize_ should be
used in those verbs of this class which can be traced directly to a
Greek source, as ‘bapt_ize_,’ ‘idol_ize_,’ ‘agon_ize_;’ especially
those used in a scientific sense, as catech_ize_, symbol_ize_,
epitom_ize_, &c. But many such words come to us through a French
medium, as ‘critic_ise_,’ ‘real_ise_,’ ‘civil_ise_.’ These should
be spelled _ise_. In all probability, we shall some day reject
the _z_ altogether. The letter _s_ seems to be taking its place
in these and many other cases, as in ‘arti_s_an,’ ‘parti_s_an,’
&c. The late Dr. Donaldson was of opinion that all the above verbs
should be spelled _ise_.

By the same law of contraction it is proposed to give up the
diphthongs _ae_ and _oe_, found in many English words derived from
Greek and Latin, and to spell them all with a simple _e_. Many
of this class have already adopted the change, for we now write
‘_E_gypt,’ ‘_e_conomy,’ ‘f_e_deral,’ ‘_e_nigma,’ ‘ph_e_nomenon,’
‘p_e_nal,’ &c. But it is reasonable to expect that many of
them will retain the diphthong for some time. Proper names and
scientific terms are likely to keep it longer, whilst in more
familiar words it will, probably, give place to the single vowel.
Accordingly we may predict that the diphthong will remain in
‘_Æ_sop,’ _Œ_dipus,’ ‘_Æ_tna,’ ‘_Œ_ta,’ and ‘C_æ_sar,’ as well as
in ‘arch_æ_ology,’ ‘anap_æ_st,’ ‘_æ_sthetic,’ cyclop_æ_dia,’ and
‘hom_œ_opathy;’ while from such words as ‘_e_conomy,’ ‘pr_e_tor,’
‘prim_e_val,’ ‘_e_qual,’ ‘_e_dile,’ ‘_e_difice,’ &c., if not
already gone, it will soon disappear altogether. There is here an
_e_conomical tendency in favour of the single _e_, and the longer
these words remain in the language, the more likely are they to be
spelled with the single vowel.

In many English words there has been a sort of rivalry between the
letters _y_ and _i_, and the general tendency now is in favour
of _i_. This does not seem to be a question of contraction. It
is supposed to have arisen from a dislike of the printers to
the ugly appearance of _y_ in the middle of a word. Mandeville
writes ‘l_y_til’ (little), ‘w_y_se’ (wise), ‘t_y_mes’ (times); and
Wiclif has ‘with_y_nne’ (within), ‘rece_y_ve’ (receive), ‘wr_y_te’
(write), ‘fa_y_le’ (fail), ‘everlast_y_ne’ (everlasting), &c. In
certain Greek words, however, the _y_ still holds its place, as in
‘h_y_mn,’ ‘t_y_pe,’ ‘h_y_dra,’ ‘t_y_rant,’ ‘l_y_re,’ &c. These will
probably long remain in the spelling.

One innovation proposed by the phonographers was to substitute
a _k_ for the ending _que_. All our words of this class are from
the French, where the ending is invariably _que_. Many of these
have already conformed to the English tendency, and are written
with a _k_ final, as ‘mas_k_,’ ‘cas_k_,’ ‘bris_k_,’ ‘ris_k_,’ &c.
These are monosyllables. But we hesitate to extend this practice to
words of two or three syllables. We are not prepared to adopt such
forms as ‘pictures_k_,’ ‘grotes_k_,’ ‘burles_k_,’ &c. Nor is it
likely that we shall be easily reconciled to ‘opa_ke_,’ ‘anti_ke_,’
‘obli_ke_,’ &c. In some few cases, if only to mark a difference
of meaning, it is expedient to have two forms of spelling; for
instance, between _bark_ (of a tree) and _barque_ (a vessel),
_check_ (a restraint) and _cheque_ (on a banker), _pike_ (a weapon)
and _pique_ (a petty quarrel), _mark_ (a note or sign) and _marque_
(a reprisal) as in ‘letters of marque.’

We ought not to conclude, because changes of spelling have been
adopted in certain words, that similar changes should be applied
to all the words of that class--because, for instance, the old
forms ‘advaunce,’ ‘commaund,’ ‘chaunt,’ and others now appear as
‘advance,’ ‘command,’ ‘chant,’ we should, for this reason, write
‘tant,’ ‘hant,’ ‘dant,’ and ‘lanch’ instead of ‘taunt,’ ‘haunt,’
‘daunt,’ and ‘launch.’ But nature and habit are not to be trifled
with. Both experience and reason combat all sudden changes. If
they are to be, they will come in good time; meanwhile let us watch
and follow.

Again, the reformers of our spelling would have us cut off
the ending _ue_ from such words as ‘catalogue,’ ‘demagogue,’
‘synagogue,’ ‘colleague,’ ‘harangue,’ ‘tongue,’ &c., and spell them
‘catalog,’ ‘demagog,’ &c. It may be most confidently predicted
that, whatever may happen in the course of future ages, this change
will not take place either in this or the next generation.

Another proposed change is to invert the ending _re_, and write
it _er_, as being more in accordance with English pronunciation.
That this is the tendency of the language is not to be denied,
for it is well known that many English words now ending in _er_
were formerly written _re_. Such are the Norman names of the
months--‘Septemb_re_,’ ‘Octob_re_,’ ‘Novemb_re_,’ ‘Decemb_re_,’
&c. Some of this class have not yet adopted the change, and
still appear in their French forms, as ‘accout_re_,’ ‘cent_re_,’
‘fib_re_,’ ‘lust_re_,’ ‘nit_re_,’ ‘och_re_,’ &c. But it is to be
noticed that these are not common words--not words of the homestead
or market-place--and that therefore they are much more likely to
retain their old forms. In some of them, also, it is desirable to
have two modes of spelling. We have ‘met_er_’ in the sense of a
measurer, as in ‘baromet_er_,’ ‘thermomet_er_,’ &c., and ‘met_re_’
in versification. ‘Cent_er_’ appears as a verb, and ‘cent_re_’ as
a noun. That most of this class will, in time, be spelled with the
ending _er_ is highly probable, but the above remark may account
for their not having yet adopted that termination.

It has often been objected to our language that its study, as
regards pronunciation and spelling, is more difficult than that
of any of the continental languages. Foreigners endeavouring to
master these difficulties are often quite overwhelmed by them, and
not unfrequently give up the study in despair. But no language is
without difficulties of this sort. Indeed, the difference between
written and spoken French offers quite as formidable obstacles to
the speller in French as could happen in English. The French words
‘_ver_’ (from ‘vermis,’ a worm), ‘_vert_’ (from ‘viridis,’ green),
and ‘_verre_’ (from ‘vitrum,’ glass) are all pronounced exactly
alike, and it is only by a knowledge of their derivation that one
can account for the difference of their forms. Again, _mère_ (from
mater, a mother), _mer_ (from mare, the sea), and _maire_ (from
major, greater) differ in spelling, though not in sound, because of
their different derivations. If all these words had the same form
of spelling because they have the same pronunciation, no one could
trace them to their source or account for their meaning. We may,
then, conclude that the proper spelling of a word depends mainly on
its etymology, and that the reason why bad spelling is looked upon
with such disfavour is, that it argues ignorance of derivation.

In all probability, if the project of instituting an English
Academy for the regulation of our language were carried out, there
would immediately arise innumerable protests against its decisions.
It is well known that the literary decrees of the French Academy
are not generally accepted or adopted, and that the opinions of
some of the most eminent literati in France are directly against
its conclusions. Besides, the spirit of the English people is
so strongly opposed to dictation, in this as in other matters,
that such an institution would stand no chance of success in this

It is too much the fashion now-a-days to find fault with English
orthography, and it is also too much the fashion to acquiesce in
its general condemnation. But, in truth, it is only those who have
paid no attention to our language, as a scientific study, who
can fail to recognise the causes of these objections. The three
principal elements of English--viz. Saxon, French, and Latin--have,
each, and all, had some influence on the formation of our words;
and this will account for the various forms of our spelling. A
word, when introduced into a language, is at first spelled in
accordance with the genius of the nation from which it comes. By
degrees, and generally by slow degrees, it is moulded into a new
form by the genius and instinct of the language in which it is at
length naturalised; still, however, retaining sufficient of its
original form to indicate its source and etymology. Various causes
contribute to effect this change; a difference in pronunciation;
the influence of some local dialect, political, religious, or
literary disputes, the example of popular writers, &c. &c. may all
assist in working a change in the outward forms of words.

But a study of the subject will prove that this operation must be
the work of time, and that no assumed power can, of itself, work
a sudden change in spelling. This alone is sufficient to account
for the failure of the phonographic system. It may also be laid
down for certain, that any newly-proposed form of spelling which
obscures or destroys the derivation of a word stands but little
chance of success. The general body of writers knew full well
that if they had at once adopted phonetic spelling, it would have
inevitably involved the language in confusion and ruin by the
destruction of its etymology, and would have thus effaced every
vestige of its beauty and variety.



The history of English shows that it has been changed from a
synthetical, to an analytical language, that in the course of time
it has lost nearly all its inflections; and that for these endings
have been substituted signs and prepositions. Whether this change
has been for the better, or for the worse, may be a matter for
speculation; but allowing that, in some respects, the language may
have sustained a loss by this process, it is not difficult to show
that for this we have some compensating advantages--and that the
change has been favourable in at least two points: 1st. as regards
variety of sound in the endings of words: and 2. flexibility in
their use and application.

In Latin, the recurrence of the verb in the same person naturally
produced a repetition of the same termination, which must have
had a very disagreeable and monotonous effect. In Cicero’s second
oration ‘in Catilinam,’ he has ‘Abi_it_, excess_it_, erup_it_,
evas_it_.’ Four consecutive words ending in _it_! Another example
of monotonous repetition, quoted by Cicero in his ‘De Naturâ
Deorum’ is, ‘clam_o_, postul_o_, obsecr_o_, or_o_, plor_o_, atque
implor_o_ fidem.’ Cæsar’s often-quoted letter, ‘Ven_i_, vid_i_,
vic_i_’ is open to the same objection, as well as the ‘tædet
h_arum_ quotidian_arum_ form_arum_’ of Terence. In all these cases,
the repetition of the endings must have produced a most harsh and
disagreeable effect; and if these passages were translated into
English, we should probably find that every word had a different

But the flexibility of our language, which arises partly from the
same cause, is another, and perhaps more important consideration.
We can easily understand that the system of inflection, however
useful in itself, prevents the possibility of one part of speech
being used for another. In English, ‘love’ may be a noun or a verb;
but in Latin or French, we must use ‘amare’ or ‘aimer’ for the
verb, and ‘amor’ or ‘amour’ for the noun. This power of using one
part of speech for another, exists to such an extent in English,
that it may be almost said, that every word in the language may be
applied in a variety of senses and grammatical constructions. That
this is of incalculable advantage, every thoughtful English scholar
will surely allow; and it may be observed that not one of the
modern languages of Europe possesses this elastic power in the same
degree as English. This may be seen in the following cases:--

1st. Almost all our verbs in common use may be used as nouns. We
have ‘to walk,’ or to take ‘a walk;’ ‘to ride,’ or to enjoy ‘a
ride;’ ‘to talk,’ or to have ‘a talk; ‘to offer,’ or to make ‘an
offer;’ ‘to visit,’ or, to pay ‘a visit,’ &c.

2. Nouns may be used as verbs:--We may say ‘a telegraph;’ or ‘to
telegraph’ a message; ‘butter,’ or ‘to butter’ bread; ‘sugar,’ or
‘to sugar’ tea; ‘a quarter,’ or ‘to quarter’ a regiment, &c.

3. Adjectives are used as nouns:--We may say ‘a round table,’ or,
‘a round’ of visits; a ‘green’ tree, or to play on ‘the green;’ a
‘beautiful’ prospect, or a love for ‘the beautiful.’ And not only
can we use the adjective as a noun; we may even give it a plural
form. We often speak of ‘eatables and drinkables.’ A man may have
a fit of the ‘dismals,’ or the ‘blues;’ or he may be anxious about
his ‘good_s_,’ ‘moveable_s_,’ or ‘valuable_s_,’ &c.

4. Adjectives are frequently used as verbs:--as, a ‘clear’ way, or
to ‘clear’ the way; a ‘long’ distance, or to ‘long’ for something;
a ‘still’ evening, or to ‘still’ the waves, &c.

5. Comparative adjectives are occasionally used as verbs; as ‘a
better’ condition, or, ‘to better’ our condition; a ‘lower’ state,
or to ‘lower’ a rope; ‘further’ remarks, or ‘to further’ a design;
‘utter’ nonsense, or ‘to utter’ opinions, &c.

6. Personal pronouns may be used as nouns: as, ‘A
downright _she_‘--(Byron.) ‘Left to be finished by such a

7. Conjunctions are frequently used as nouns; as, ‘But me no
_buts_’ How many ‘_thats_’ are there in the sentence? ‘Let us have
no more _ifs_ and _ands_,’ &c.

8. Prepositions may be used in like manner: as, The _ins_ and
_outs_ of life. The ‘_ups_ and _downs_’ of fortune, &c.

9. Even adverbs are sometimes constructed as nouns; as:--Which are
in the majority; the ‘_ayes_,’ or the ‘_noes_?’

This extraordinary plasticity of English applies particularly to
nouns signifying parts of the body. There is scarcely one of these
which may not be turned into a verb. For example, we commonly hear
that a man ‘_faces_’ his difficulties with courage. Hamlet says
of Polonius, ‘You may _nose_ him in the lobby.’ In Shakspere’s
‘Tempest’ we may read, ‘Full many a lady I have _eyed_ with best

To _jaw_ is sometimes used, though not very elegantly, in the sense
of to chatter or scold. We often hear of a man ‘_elbowing_’ his
way through a crowd, and Goldsmith’s ‘Deserted Village’ gives us
‘_Shouldered_ his arms, and showed how fields were won.’

To ‘_hand_’ a plate, and to ‘_finger_’ a passage on the piano,
are everyday expressions. We also frequently hear of a coachman
‘_backing_’ his horses, and Shakspere has ‘to _foot_ it featly.’
Besides these, may be noticed ‘to _thumb_ the leaves of a book’; to
‘_breast_ the waves;’ ‘to _palm_ off (for to cheat or deceive);’ to
_side_ with a party; and to _head_ an expedition. To these may be
added ‘to _bone_’ a fowl; ‘to _skin_’ a rabbit, and many others.
It may be reasonably doubted whether this power exists to anything
like the same extent in the continental languages.

But not only the names of parts of the body; also those of many
articles of domestic use are employed in a similar way. We have
to _chair_ a member; we hear that people are _boarded_, and that
the earth is _carpeted_ with green. ‘_Curtained_’ sleep, and
‘_imbedded_’ in the earth, belong to the same class. One man is
said to _floor_ another in argument. To ‘_picture_ to yourself;’
to _table_ the contents of a book; to be _closeted_ with a friend,
to _book_ a debt; to _pen_ a letter; to _ink_ a dress; to _paper_
a room, and to _shelve_ a subject are all common and daily
expressions. They are, in every sense of the term, _household_

In English, names of domestic animals are all Saxon; whereas wild
beasts for the most part retain their Latin or French names. Thus
‘cat,’ ‘hound,’ ‘horse,’ ‘sheep,’ ‘cow,’ ‘swine,’ &c., are of
Germanic origin; whilst ‘lion,’ ‘tiger,’ ‘elephant,’ ‘leopard,’
‘panther,’ &c., come to us from Greek through Latin. The power we
have to use these names of animals as verbs is another instance of
the elasticity of our language. This can be done with some of the
above Saxon names, though not with those of wild beasts. The noun
‘horse’ is often used as a verb: a stable-keeper is said to _horse_
a coach; i.e. to supply it with horses. We have also _to dodge_;
i.e. to follow a scent in and out like a dog. A man is _hounded_ on
to do such and such work; while to _rat_ is to desert your party.
Every one knows that to _duck_ is to dive in the water like a duck.
People are also said to be _gulled_ when they are easily deceived;
and to _drone_ when they read or speak monotonously.

It is remarkable how often, colloquially, we use the names of
animals as types of temper or character. True, this is not peculiar
to the English language: though the practice is perhaps here more
extended. People continually employ the word ‘ass’ or ‘donkey’ in
the sense of a stupid loutish fellow. They also often stigmatise
a cunning man as a ‘fox;’ or a scolding shrew as a ‘vixen.’ A
proud little strut is called ‘a cock of the walk;’ and a reckless
spendthrift is a ‘sad dog;’ or sometimes a ‘jolly dog.’ ‘Puppy’
is suggestive of conceit and self-sufficiency; and a slothful,
indolent man is spoken of as a lazy ‘hound.’ A ‘hog’ is sometimes
used as a metaphor for a glutton; and a ‘pig’ for a dirty fellow.
‘Pig-headed’ is also applied to one of stubborn temper; a ‘mule’
is a type of obstinacy; and a ‘horse,’ in the sense of a beast
of burden, is found in ‘towel-horse,’ or ‘clothes-horse.’ Men of
rude manners are spoken of as ‘bears,’ and the weak or timid in
disposition are called ‘chicken’-hearted. A fond mother speaks
of her child as her pet ‘lamb,’ or little ‘duck.’ Silliness is
typified by ‘goose,’ and mischief by ‘monkey,’ &c. Here it will be
found that these words are, with one or two exceptions, used in
a disparaging, and not in a favourable, sense. They are, most of
them, terms of reproach, not of praise.

Words have not only degenerated in sense; their outward form has
also suffered. One principle--contraction--has affected both the
pronunciation and spelling of many words. It may be taken as a
general rule that words, as they grow older, become softer and
shorter. They seldom expand, but almost always contract. This
probably originated in a loose careless way of speaking, which
afterwards affected the written language. Contractions appear
in a great variety of forms. 1st. They are made by cutting off
an initial syllable, as ‘‘prentice,’ for ‘apprentice;’ ‘‘peach,’
for ‘impeach;’ ‘‘gin,’ for ‘engine;’ ‘‘suage,’ for ‘assuage;’
‘‘cyclopædia,’ for ‘encyclopædia;’ &c. Among the words which have
lost their initial letters, three are to be especially noticed:
viz. ‘luck,’ ‘irksome,’ and ‘orchard.’ The first of these was
originally ‘Glück,’ and is still so spelled in German, whence
it comes. ‘Irksome’ was in Anglo-Saxon written ‘(w)eorcsam,’
i.e. full of work, and therefore troublesome; and ‘orchard’ is
a corruption of ‘(w)ort-yard,’ that is, a yard in which (worts)
plants or vegetables were grown. 2nd. By cutting off a final
syllable; as in ‘pro and con,’ for ‘contra;’ ‘cit,’ for ‘citizen;’
‘without,’ formerly ‘withouten;’ ‘incog,’ for ‘incognito;’ ‘hyp,’
for ‘hypochondria;’ ‘consols,’ for ‘consolidated annuities,’ &c.
3rd. By taking a letter, or letters, from the middle of a word; as
‘else,’ for ‘elles;’ ‘lark,’ for ‘laverock;’ ‘last,’ for ‘latest;’
‘lord,’ for ‘hlaford;’ ‘since,’ for ‘sithence;’ ‘parrot,’ for
‘perroquet;’ and ‘fortnight,’ for ‘fourteen nights;’ ‘cheer up’
is contracted into ‘chirrup,’ and then into ‘chirp;’ ‘speak’
comes from ‘sp_r_ecan;’ and the Anglo-Saxon ‘wi_f_man’ appears as
‘woman.’ By the same law are formed many proper names. ‘Twell,’
for ‘at the well;’ ‘Thill,’ for ‘at the hill;’ ‘Oxford,’ for
‘Ox_en_ford;’ ‘Cambridge,’ for ‘Cant_e_brigge,’ &c.

Many other cases may be cited as examples of this law. The word
‘(E)piscop(us)’ has suffered a mutilation at both the beginning
and the end; and appears in English as ‘Bishop.’ The prefix ‘ge,’
commonly used in Saxon, and still retained in German participles,
lingered for some time in English in the softened form of _y_; as
in ‘_y_clept,’ ‘_y_clothed,’ &c.; but it has now vanished from the
language. Another instance of the same tendency may be seen in the
present pronunciation of participles ending in ‘ed.’ Formerly, the
word ‘used’ was always pronounced as a dissyllable--‘usèd;’ now it
is universally pronounced as a monosyllable. Indeed, this final
‘ed,’ as a distinct syllable though still occasionally heard in the
pulpit, is fast disappearing from our language.

Contraction was the main principle on which the ancient Latin was
transformed into French. It is curious to observe that though this
contracting power did operate in Italian, it was not there carried
out to the same degree as in French; that is, though Italian words
are, in most cases, shorter than their Latin equivalents, they are
not so contracted as the French words of the same meaning. This may
be easily shown by comparison:--

  _Latin._            _Italian._    _French._

  apotheca            bottega       boutique
  male-aptus          malatto       malade
  quisque unus        ciascuno      chacun
  ad hanc horam       ancora        encore
  ad illam horam      allora        alors
  ad satis            assai         assez
  in simul            insieme       ensemble
  semetipsissimus     medesimo      même
  de retro            dietro        derrière
  de illo             dello         du
  homo                uomo          on
  gaudium             giojo         joie

and many others.


On the other hand, there are some few cases where words are
expanded or widened by the insertion of a letter. 1st. Of
a vowel. We have ‘alar_u_m,’ for ‘alarm;’ ‘law_y_er,’ for
‘lawer;’ ‘cloth_i_er,’ for ‘clother.’ The _i_ is also inserted
in ‘parl_i_ament,’ ‘Sav_i_our,’ ‘hand_i_craft,’ ‘hand_i_work,’
‘per_i_winkle,’ and a few others.

2nd. Sometimes, _l_ or _r_ is inserted; as in ‘princip_l_e,’ from
‘principe;’ ‘syllab_l_e,’ from ‘syllabe;’ ‘cart_r_idge,’ from
‘cartouche;’ ‘part_r_idge,’ from the Latin ‘perdix,’ through the
French ‘perd_r_ix;’ ‘g_r_oom,’ from the Anglo-Saxon ‘guma,’ a man;
‘vag_r_ant,’ from ‘vagans;’ and ‘co_r_poral,’ from ‘caporal.’

3rd. P and B are often inserted after _m_; as ’em_p_ty,’
Anglo-Saxon ‘æmtig,’ ‘tem_p_t,’ from the French ‘tenter;’
’em_b_ers,’ from the Anglo-Saxon ‘æmyrje;’ ‘nim_b_le,’ from the
Anglo-Saxon ‘nemol.’ Also in ‘lam_b_,’ ‘lim_b_,’ ‘crum_b_,’
‘thum_b_,’ and ‘num_b_,’ the _b_ forms no part of the root.

4th. D naturally attaches itself to _n_ final; as in ‘soun_d_,’
‘riban_d_,’ ‘len_d_,’ &c. This may probably account for certain
provincial pronunciations, as ‘gown_d_,’ ‘drown_d_,’ &c. Also in
‘thun_d_er,’ ‘kin_d_red,’ and ‘yon_d_er,’ the _d_ is parasitical.


Assimilation, or the coming together of letters which have an
affinity for each other, is a principle which affects the spelling,
as well as the pronunciation, of many English words. This law
softens the pronunciation, and will account for the frequent
occurrence of a double consonant at the beginning of a large class
of words. The rule is here:--‘_When a prefix ending in a consonant
is applied to a root beginning with one, that consonant disappears,
and there is substituted for it the initial consonant of the
root_.’ This happens most frequently in English words compounded
with Latin prepositions. The _d_ in the preposition ‘_ad_’ is often
assimilated to the initial consonant of the root to which it is

The word ‘a_cc_ede’ is made up of ‘ad’ (to) and ‘cede’ (come).
But the initial _c_ in ‘cede’ assimilated to itself the _d_ in
‘ad,’ i.e. changed it into a _c_. Thus ‘adcede’ became ‘a_cc_ede.’
This law will account for the double consonant in such forms as
‘a_cc_ost,’ ‘a_gg_rieve,’ ‘a_ll_ude,’ ‘a_mm_unition,’ ‘a_nn_ex,’
‘a_pp_ly,’ ‘a_ss_ist,’ ‘a_tt_ract,’ and many others. In all these
cases the first syllable was originally ‘_ad_.’

This law applies with equal force to other Latin prepositions
which enter into the formation of English words; as ‘con,’ ‘in,’
‘per,’ ‘sub,’ &c. We spell the word ‘co_ll_ect’ for ‘conlect;’
‘co_mm_une,’ for ‘conmune,’ &c. On the same principle we write
‘i_ll_egal,’ for ‘inlegal;’ ‘i_rr_egular,’ for ‘inregular;’
‘pe_ll_ucid,’ for ‘perlucid;’ ‘su_cc_umb,’ for ‘subcumb;’ and many
others. But when the root begins with a labial (_b_, _p_, or _m_),
then the final consonant of the preposition is always changed into
_m_. This is why we write ‘i_m_bibe,’ and not ‘ibbibe;’ ‘i_m_bue,’
not ‘ibbue;’ and ‘i_m_possible,’ not ‘ipposible,’ &c.

This principle of assimilation has operated in the formation of the
words ‘ha_mm_ock’ and ‘sti_rr_up.’ The first is from ‘hang-mat,’
where the _ng_ has been assimilated to _m_. The second is from the
Anglo-Saxon ‘stig-rope’ (literally, ‘mount-rope,’ or rope to mount
by), where _r_ is substituted for the _g_ in ‘stig.’


Attraction is another principle which affects the forms of certain
words. Sometimes a consonant is drawn away from the word to
which it properly belongs, and becomes a part of its neighbour.
The effect of this law is especially remarkable in the article
‘_an_.’ In certain cases the _n_ (of a_n_) does not really belong
to the article, but is the initial letter of the noun following.
This happens in the case of ‘an orange;’ the word ‘orange’ is, in
Spanish, whence it is derived, ‘naranja,’ and we should therefore
write ‘a norange’ rather than ‘an orange.’ But the article _a_ has
attracted to itself the initial _n_ of the noun, and the result
is--‘an orange.’ For the same reason ‘an adder’ should be written
‘a natter,’ or ‘a nadder.’ On the other hand, there are cases in
which the _n_ of the article is attracted into the following word.
If the word ‘apron’ is from the French ‘naperon’ (from nappe,
cloth), we should write ‘a napron,’ and not ‘an apron.’ Several of
these cases may be pointed out. We say and write, ‘a neap tide,’
instead of ‘an ebb tide;’ ‘a newt,’ for ‘an ewt’ (or eft); and,
on the other hand, ‘an auger,’ for ‘a nauger;’ ‘an awl,’ for ‘a
nawl;’ and ‘an umpire’ for ‘a nompire.’ The same principle operates
in certain French expressions. The province of Southern Italy
formerly known as ‘Apulia,’ is in French written ‘La Pouille.’ Here
the _a_ initial of ‘Apulia’ is attracted into the article. The
expression should be ‘L’Apouille,’ and not ‘La Pouille.’ In the
same way, the French call ‘Anatolia’ (Asia Minor), ‘La Natolie;’
whereas it should be written ‘L’Anatolie.’ It is from the Greek
ἀνατολή--the rising of the sun.


The accent of an English word depends chiefly on its derivation.
In words of Saxon origin, it is placed on the root. For example,
‘lóve’ is an accented monosyllable, and preserves its accent on
the root, in all its derivations; as in ‘lóving,’ ‘lóveliness,’
‘lóveable,’ &c. But in Romance words, the tendency is to put
the accent on the branches, and not on the root. In French,
the vocabulary is drawn mainly from Latin words without their
inflections. The French words ‘natúre,’ ‘fatál,’ ‘aimáble,’ &c.,
have the accent on the second syllable, because they are formed
from the Latin ‘natúra,’ ‘fatális,’ and ‘amábilis,’ without the
endings. But in English all these and similar words are accented
on the first syllable; and we pronounce them ‘náture,’ ‘fátal,’
‘ámiable.’ In Chaucer’s poetry, many French words are accented on
the second or third syllable, in accordance with the classical
principle; thus, we there find ‘honóur,’ ‘natión,’ ‘companý,’
&c. All these, after Chaucer’s time, shifted the accent back to
the first syllable, thus conforming themselves to the genius
of the English language. There is, to this day, in English a
conflict in the accent between the two principles, the Teutonic
and the Romance; the former leaning to the root, and the latter
to the branches of the word. But even in classical words, as
regards accent, the Saxon genius clearly prevails. We accent
the word ‘órdinary’ on the first syllable, which contains the
pith of its meaning; whereas the French place the accent on the
last--‘ordináire.’ It was probably the antagonism between these
two principles--the Germanic tendency toward the beginning,
and the Romance toward the end, of the word, which caused the
accent in English to be so long unsettled. But the genius of the
Saxon eventually triumphed over the French element, in accent as
well as in grammatical forms, and the general rule in English
pronunciation, is to put the accent on the root.

The spelling of certain English derivatives depends on the place of
the accent in their roots. Now, when the last syllable of the root
is accented, the final consonant must be doubled in the derivative.
This accounts for the root ‘rób’ (with one b), making ‘ro_bb_ed,’
and ‘ro_bb_er,’ (with two b’s) admí_t_ (one _t_), making admi_tt_ed
(two t’s), &c.

But when the accent lies on any other syllable of the root, the
final consonant must remain single in the derivative, as ‘límit,’
‘lími_t_ed;’ ‘díffer,’ ‘díffe_r_ing;’ ‘bénefit,’ ‘bénefi_t_ed;’ &c.
This rule applies only to root-endings consisting of a single vowel
followed by a single consonant; for if a diphthong precede, the
consonant must remain single in the derivative. We must therefore
write ‘joi_n_er,’ ‘stea_m_ing,’ ‘toi_l_ing,’ ‘rea_d_er,’ &c., with
single consonants.

But there are exceptions to this general rule. One especially
regards roots ending in _l_. These always double the _l_ in the
derivative, whether the last syllable of the root be accented
or not. The verb ‘to expél,’ will, by the above rule, naturally
make its past tense, ‘expelled;’ but why should ‘trável’ give
‘traveller,’ or ‘équal,’ ‘equalled?’ These, though universally
adopted, are clearly against the principle. Two other words are
also exceptions, ‘worship,’ and ‘bias.’ These make ‘worshipped,’
and ‘biassed,’ with double consonants. The Americans refuse to
admit these exceptions, and they write ‘trave_l_er,’ ‘equa_l_ed,’
‘worshi_p_ed,’ and ‘bia_s_ed,’ with single consonants. It must be
admitted that they are right in principle, but the general practice
in English is in these cases decidedly in favour of the double


There appears in certain letters a peculiar tendency to get out of
order--to slip into a wrong place--a restless desire for change. No
letter of the alphabet is more subject to this affection than the
liquid, _r_. Many French words ending in _re_, are found in English
to end in _er_. The French ‘lett_re_’ is in English ‘lett_er_.’
The final syllables of ‘Septembre,’ ‘Octobre,’ ‘Novembre’ and
‘Décembre,’ are inverted in English, and are written ‘Septemb_er_,’
&c. The Greek root ἑρπ (creep) gave in Latin ‘_rep_ĕre;’ whence
we have ‘_rep_tile,’ &c. ‘B_ru_nt,’ is derived from ‘b_ur_n.’ The
‘brunt’ of a battle is where it ‘burns’ most fiercely. Again: a
‘p_ur_pose’ is what we ‘p_ro_pose’ to do; and ‘to t_ru_ndle’ a hoop
is to ‘t_ur_n’ it repeatedly. The Saxon verb ‘_ur_nan,’ is the
source of the English ‘_ru_n.’ ‘B_ri_mstone’ is an inversion of
‘b_ur_n-stone;’ and the verb to ‘ask,’ was in Anglo-Saxon, ‘axian.’
Chaucer has ‘drit’ for ‘dirt;’ ‘briddes,’ for ‘birds,’ &c.


When a word is warped or distorted from its original form, either
by a vicious pronunciation, or by a mistaken notion of its
derivation, it is said to be a corruption. Though we must accept
and adopt the usual spelling of such words, it may be useful and
interesting to know what brought them into their present forms.

When a word is first pronounced in the hearing of those who do
not know its meaning, its spelling naturally becomes with them,
a mere imitation of the sound. It is remarkable how often these
corruptions appear in the names of taverns and ships. Such words
being most frequently in the mouths of the illiterate, will soon
acquire a false pronunciation, which, after a time, leads to a
false spelling, and hence many of their present forms. It was this
rude attempt to imitate a sound that led the sailors to call their
ship ‘Bellerophon’ the ‘Billy Ruffian.’ From the same cause, the
sign of the ‘Boulogne Mouth’ was corrupted into ‘Bull and Mouth;’
and the ‘Bacchanals’ (a very appropriate name for an inn), was
transformed into the ‘Bag of Nails.’ It is said that our soldiers
in India could never be taught to pronounce properly ‘Surajah
Dowlah,’ the name of that Bengal prince who figured in the affair
of the Black Hole. They persisted in calling him ‘Sir Roger Dowlas!’

Some of these corrupt forms are so firmly rooted in the language,
that they must now be recognised as correct, and adopted
accordingly. We are told that the word ‘grocer’ was originally
‘grosser,’ and meant one who sold articles in the gross (_en
gros_). This is probably the true explanation; but we must not, on
that account, revert to the old spelling. It would be eccentric
and pedantic in the extreme to write ‘rightwise’ for ‘righteous;’
‘frontispice’ for ‘frontispiece,’ or ‘shamefast’ for ‘shamefaced;’
for though the first may have been the true and original form of
these words, custom must here take precedence of derivation, and we
must spell them according to the present usual practice.



It is worthy of observation that all nations do not express
the same idea by the same form of word, i.e. that in different
languages the same idea is often represented by a word of a
distinctly different root. How comes it, we may ask, that the
Romance languages of Europe, viz. French, Italian, Spanish, &c.
all use forms of the originally same word to express their idea of
‘_king_,’ viz. roi, re, rey? These languages being off-shoots of
Latin, the above words are all derived from the Latin ‘rex,’ from
‘rego,’ ‘I rule,’ or exert physical power. Now in the Teutonic
languages of Europe--Dutch, German, English, etc.--we find this
idea in a very different phase: ‘Konig,’ ‘König,’ ‘King.’ The root
of these words may be found in ‘kennen,’ ‘to know.’ From this it
would appear that the idea of a ruler in one class of nations was
a physically strong man, who, by means of his bodily strength,
could force his subjects to do his will. The Saxon for ‘king’ was
‘cyning,’ from ‘cnawan’ to know, i.e. one who ‘knew’ better than
his subjects or followers--who was superior to them in knowledge.
We may, perhaps, conclude from this that the Romance nations
regarded strength or physical power as the distinguishing quality
of a ruler; whereas the Germanic tribes saw in their leader one who
was able to guide them aright by his superior thought and judgment.
The Romans looked to the hand, the Germans to the head, in this
matter. Is it not likely that attention to such differences may
throw some light on national characteristics?

Another example of this difference of view of the same idea may
be seen in the English word ‘finger,’ as compared with the French
‘doigt.’ ‘Finger’ is connected with the German ‘fangen,’ to take
hold of, and is a relation of our word ‘fang,’ i.e. the tooth with
which certain animals _hold_ their prey. In the Germanic view of
the word it is the instrument with which we ‘take hold.’ On the
other hand, the Greek δάκτυλος, from δείκνυμι, I show or point out,
appeared in Latin as ‘digitus;’ passed into Italian as ‘dito,’ and
into French as ‘doigt.’ The Romance view of the word would then be
‘a pointer or indicator,’ and the Teutonic a holder or catcher.

The French word ‘mouchoir’ will also illustrate this difference of
view. This is from ‘(se) moucher,’ to wipe (the nose). It would
be considered extremely vulgar to call this article in English
‘a wiper,’ and yet this is literally its French meaning. The
Germans have named it ‘Schnupftuch,’ or ‘snuff-cloth,’ another
view of the same thing. But the corresponding English word,
‘handkerchief,’ presents us with a most curious anomaly. The
first form of the word was ‘kerchief,’ which is the old French
‘couvre-chef,’ i.e. a covering for the head, just as ‘curfew’ was
from ‘couvre-feu’--‘cover-fire.’ Milton has the word ‘kerchiefed’
in the sense of ‘with the head covered.’ He speaks of Morn--

      _Kerchiefed_ in a comely cloud.--_Penseroso._

Now, if to ‘kerchief’ we prefix ‘hand,’ we have a word which seems
to mean a covering for the head, held in the hand--which is a
manifest absurdity! But the climax of confusion is reached when we
qualify this word by ‘pocket.’ How the covering for the _head_ is
to be held in the _hand_, and yet carried in the _pocket_ is enough
to puzzle anyone.

Another instance of this description may be seen in the word
‘heaven.’ In the Teutonic languages it represents the idea of
something raised on high, or _heaved_ up--from ‘heafan’ and
‘heben,’ to lift up, or elevate. But the Romance view of this word
is connected with the idea of hollowness or concavity. The Greek
κοῖλον; the Latin ‘cœlum;’ the Italian ‘cielo;’ and the French
‘ciel’--all involve the meaning of a hollow, or arched covering.

A great variety of expression may be also seen if we compare
together the idioms of several European languages. These
peculiarities may be looked upon as characterising the tone and
habits of thought of a nation, and they deserve especial study and
attention. If we take the usual form of greeting in English--‘How
do you do?’ here we may see that the verb _do_ is indicative of
the activity and practical nature of the English mind. It would
seem as if in this country our bodily health actually depends upon
our _doing_; i.e. our business habits; that to be occupied is
equivalent to being in good health. Now if we take the ordinary
corresponding French phrase--‘Comment vous _portez_-vous?’--we
may fairly infer that the well-being in this case depends on the
_carriage_, or outward bearing of the person. The Germans, under
the same circumstances, say: ‘Wie befinden Sie sich?’ (literally,
‘how do they _find_ themselves?’) May not this form of expression
throw some light on the German character? May it not point to that
tendency to deep reflection which is known to be so strikingly
distinctive of the German tone of mind? From this we may conclude
that the German is so habituated to deep thought that he cannot
even tell you the state of his health, without searching till
he _finds_ it out. The Italian corresponding form, ‘Come sta?’
(literally, ‘How does he stand?’), is referred to the _standing_ of
the Lombard merchants in the market-place; and in this case, the
well-being or health seems to have depended on the prosperity of
the dealer. In these remarks on the different forms of greeting,
there may appear something fanciful, but one thing is clear, viz.
that they all differ from each other, and it is but natural to
conclude, that each has some connection with the turn of mind of
the people to which it belongs. Of course it would be wrong to
form positive opinions concerning national character, from the
examination of only one idiom; and it would be necessary to collect
and compare a large number of examples to arrive at satisfactory
conclusions on this head. But we should look into the philosophy of
idiom more keenly, for here we are most likely to find a key to the
character of every civilised nation.

Another example of this variety may be seen in the form of address
adopted in the different countries of Europe. We English speak
to one another in the second person plural, even when we address
one person. We say ‘you are,’ to one single person, and if we
have to address a thousand, we must use the same form. This may,
probably, partly account for the grammatical fault so commonly made
by the uneducated--‘_you was_.’ Feeling that they are speaking
to only one person, and not knowing that the pronoun (you) is,
strictly speaking, plural, they very naturally--though, of course,
incorrectly--put the ‘you’ and the ‘was’ together.

The French also adopt the second person plural in the same
case--‘vous êtes.’ But they use the second person singular much
more frequently than we do, especially between relations and
intimate friends. ‘Tu’ and ‘toi,’ however, have lost much of their
former charm since the great revolution, when the levelling spirit
of the Government merged all differences of rank into one common
form of address. In certain circumstances, the French use the third
person singular as a mark of respect. When a lady goes into a shop
in Paris, the first question asked her is, ‘Qu’est-ce que madame
désire?’ and, in the same way, her servant says to her, ‘Madame,
a-t-elle sonné?’

The Germans, in the same circumstances, use the third person
plural--‘Sie sind,’ literally ‘they are.’ This usage has prevailed
in Germany ever since the sixteenth century, and is supposed to
express respect. But in cases of intimacy, or relationship, the
Germans also use the pronoun of the second person singular. A
German husband always addresses his wife, or a brother his sister,
as _du_, but if scorn or contempt be intended, then the third
person singular is adopted. In Germany, the best way to get rid
of an importunate beggar is to exclaim, ‘Was will _er_?’ which is
about equivalent to our ‘What does the fellow want?’

Majesty still speaks, in this country, in the plural number. The
Queen issues a proclamation, beginning with:--‘Given at _our_
court of St. James’, &c. The editorial ‘we’ is also well known as
expressing a certain importance and authority. In Italy, the form
used in addressing any one is the third person singular, ‘Come
sta,’ literally, ‘How does he stand?’

If we compare the words which express degrees of kindred or
relationship in one language with those of a corresponding class in
another, we shall find distinctly different pictures. The French
words ‘mari’ and ‘femme,’ merely show a difference of sex. ‘Mari’
is from the Latin ‘maritus’ (mas, maris), ‘a male,’ and ‘femme,’
is derived from ‘femina,’ ‘female.’ But if we put against these
the corresponding English terms ‘husband’ and ‘wife,’ a totally
new scene is opened to our view. ‘Husband’ is etymologically, the
‘man of the house,’ or the ‘house-protector;’ and the ‘wife’ is
the ‘weaving-one.’ Indeed, we shall find that most of the Saxon
words expressing degrees of kindred, have reference to occupations.
The _hus_band was the head or protector of the house. The wife
(as her name shows) _wove_ the cloth for the use of the family.
But before the cloth could be woven, it must be _spun_, and this
was done by the grown-up unmarried women, for that reason called
‘_spinsters_.’ The word ‘daughter’ is traced to a Sanscrit root,
‘dhu’--milk; whence we infer that the daughters milked the cows, a
very appropriate occupation in a primitive state of society. The
word ‘son’ is supposed to be derived from a Sanscrit root ‘_su_’ or
‘_pu_,’ originally signifying ‘clean,’ from which we may conclude
that their office was to _clean_ out the house. The ‘husband’ then
was the ‘protector;’ the ‘wife,’ the ‘weaver;’ the ‘unmarried
women,’ the ‘spinners’ (or ‘spinsters’); the ‘daughters,’ the
‘milkers;’ and the ‘sons,’ the ‘cleaners.’ With what hallowed
feelings are all these words associated, and what a vivid picture
do they present of the primitive simplicity of family society! No
such picture of domestic life is exhibited in the Latin or French
words which express these relations, and we may look in vain for
anything of this sort in the Romance languages.

The Teutonic view of the place of punishment in a future life,
somewhat differs from the Romance. We English call it _hell_, the
French and Italians, _enfer_ and _inferno_. Our word is derived
from the old Saxon verb ‘_helan_,’ ‘to cover up’ or ‘hide;’ ‘enfer’
and ‘inferno’ are from ‘inferus,’ ‘below,’ so that the Germanic
idea is here ‘a concealed or covered place;’ the classical view of
the same is ‘the place below, or underground.’

If we compare the English word ‘_shoe_,’ with the French
‘_soulier_’ we shall also find a difference in the original
meaning. They both represent the same article of dress, but our
word ‘_shoe_’ is from ‘shove,’ it is that into which we ‘shove’ the
foot; whereas the French ‘_soulier_’ rather suggests ‘sandal’ than
‘shoe,’ properly so called. It means literally, something ‘bound
under’ (sous-lié), i.e. under the foot.

Our common word ‘_thimble_,’ is connected with ‘thumb,’ on which
it was originally worn. The Germans choose to call this article
‘_Fingerhut_,’ literally, a ‘finger-hat,’ i.e. a hat or covering
for the finger.



One of the greatest advantages a language can possess, is the power
of forming compound words. This materially contributes to its
conciseness;--makes it comparatively easy to express much in few
words--and thus assists, by concentrating its force, in rendering
it vigorous and impressive. This power of compounding is found
chiefly in the Teutonic languages of Europe; and is comparatively
unknown in the Romance. In our own case, it was considerably
modified by the Norman Conquest, which introduced a French (or
Latin) element into English. We still, however, possess this power
to a considerable extent; and herein we enjoy certain advantages
unknown to French or Italian. German, the most cultivated of all
the Teutonic languages, has much more of this characteristic; and,
in point of closeness and compactness of expression, is superior
to English. But there are symptoms of its still further decrease
in our language, and it is worthy of observation that the general
tendency with us is to give up Saxon compounds, and to substitute
for them Latin or French terms. The old word ‘deathsman’ has its
present equivalent in ‘executioner;’ ‘mildheartedness’ has become
‘mercy;’ ‘long-suffering,’ ‘patience,’ &c. The verb ‘to gainsay’
still lingers in the language, but its place is now generally taken
by ‘to contradict.’ ‘To gainstrive’ is supplanted by ‘to oppose.’
‘To inspect’ is preferred before ‘to look into;’ and ‘to despise’
is used rather than ‘to look down upon.’

The first English poet who gave prominence to this power of
combination was Chapman, who applied it with wonderfully happy
effect in his Homer’s Iliad, in translating the compound Greek
epithets which so frequently occur in that poem; such as
‘swift-footed;’ ‘ivory-wristed;’ ‘white-armed;’ ‘many-headed;’
‘rosy-fingered,’ &c. Most of these were afterwards adopted by Pope.
There is a tendency in some modern English writers to carry this
compounding power to an unwarrantable extent, a practice which
should certainly be resisted, as being opposed to the genius of
our language, and also giving evidence of aping after Germanic
forms, and thus transgressing the proper limits of the language.
The late Madame d’Arblay, in her ‘Memoirs of Dr. Burney,’
speaks of the ‘very-handsome,-though-no-longer-in-her-bloom-Mrs.
Stevens!’ and this authoress also has the ‘sudden-at-the-moment-
But this is really too bad. ‘It out-Herods Herod;’ and in these
cases is a mere piece of affectation.

The mania at one time for these long-tailed adjectives, was
very cleverly ridiculed by the brothers James and Horace
Smith, in their ‘Rejected Addresses.’ Here in caricaturing
the style of the ‘Morning Post,’ they speak of the
monster-Bonaparte.’ Another of these extraordinary epithets
the-Gunpowder-Plot!’ But the climax of the caricature is reached in
the following. Speaking of Covent-garden market, the writer calls it
lighted-up-with-lamps-market-of-Covent-garden!!’ But such legitimate
compound forms as ‘ill-assorted,’ ‘cloud-capped,’ ‘far-darting,’
&c., are highly valuable, and of great service to the language. It
is to be observed that none of these are literally translatable into
French. For such an adjective as ‘broken-hearted,’ there is no
corresponding equivalent in that language. The only way to  express,
in French, any approach to the meaning of our word, is to use a
ponderous circumlocution, which will require at least three or four
terms. The expression is thus enfeebled by being broken up  into a
number of words, and it loses all the force and vigour of the
English. A ‘broken-hearted father’ would be probably expressed in
French by ‘un père qui a le cœur brisé’--exactly five words for our
one. And so of all other compound terms. In fact, French does not
lend itself to closeness and compactness of expression; and, in
this respect, is far inferior to any of the Teutonic languages.

One peculiarity of the Saxon part of English is its monosyllabic
nature. This was chiefly caused by the falling-off of the endings.
All our prepositions and conjunctions, beside most of the nouns,
verbs, and adjectives in common use, are monosyllables. These form
the staple of the English language, and are the chief elements
of closeness and brevity of expression. Our legitimate compound
words seldom consist of more than two, or at most three, elements.
The greater number are made up of monosyllables; as ‘milk-maid,’
‘oat-meal,’ ‘foot-boy,’ ‘hail-storm,’ &c. In a few cases, they are
compounded of three terms, as ‘out-of-doors,’ ‘matter-of-fact,’
‘out-of-the-way,’ &c.; but these are comparatively rare. There are
few, if perhaps any, cases of English words which have more than
seven syllables. This seems to be the length of our tether in this
respect. Perhaps it is as well that it should be so; for whatever
may be said of the use of the compounding principle, as giving
closeness and energy of expression, there is no doubt that, when
carried to excess, it has a directly contrary effect. When a very
large number of elements are fused together into one word, there is
naturally a difficulty in getting at the original root and primary
meaning of the whole; and the expression becomes cumbrous and

This combining or compounding power is of different degrees in
different languages, but in the Mexican language it is carried to
an incredible extent. Here, combinations are admitted so easily,
that the simplest ideas are buried under a load of accessories.
For example, the word for a ‘priest,’ consists of eleven
syllables, and is there called ‘notlazomahuizleopixcatatzin,’
which means literally, ‘venerable minister of God, whom
I love as my father.’ A still more comprehensive word is
‘amatlacuilolitquitcatlaxtlahuitli,’ which means ‘the reward
given to a messenger who brings a hieroglyphical map conveying

This system displays a most curious mechanism, which, by bringing
the greatest number of ideas into the smallest possible compass,
condenses whole sentences into a single word. Many of our older
writers indulged in derivatives and compound words to an extent
which the language does not now admit, in consequence of its having
lost part of its Saxon character. We still have ‘to undo;’ but to
‘unput’ (for to take away) and to ‘undestroy’ (for to rebuild) were
formerly used, and Fuller even employs the verb ‘_to ungrayhair_,’
in the sense of ‘to pull out gray hairs.’ He writes of a man being
‘ungrayhaired,’ when all his gray hairs were plucked out of his



It is simply impossible to express sound by writing, and therefore
all instruction in pronunciation should be given vivâ voce. A
pronouncing Dictionary may sometimes afford assistance; but in many
cases it must fail, as it is an attempt to explain varieties or
shades of sound by varieties of shape, i.e. combinations of written
letters--in fine, objects of one sense by those of another.

It is not easy to fix a standard of pronunciation. At one time
the stage, then the bar, and, later still, the pulpit, have been
considered as authorities in this matter. But all these are now
rejected, and the conversation of the highest classes in London
society is now looked upon as the standard of English pronunciation.

Pronunciation, like everything else connected with language,
varies continually with the influence of time and fashion; and
it is well known that, even fifty years ago, many English words
were pronounced differently from the present practice. It was
formerly the fashion to pronounce ‘leisure’ (which now rhymes with
‘pleasure’) as if written ‘leezure’ (to rhyme with ‘seizure’).
This was never a vulgar pronunciation; it was done by the highest
classes. It was also the fashion to pronounce ‘oblige’ more like
the French verb ‘obliger’ as if written ‘obl_ee_ge,’ and this also
was the practice with the best educated. ‘Gold’ also was formerly
pronounced by good speakers as if rhyming with ‘ruled;’ now it
properly rhymes with ‘old’ or ‘cold.’

We may conclude, from some of Pope’s rhymes, that, in the early
part of the eighteenth century, our language was not pronounced
exactly as it is at present. He has ‘line’ and ‘join’ rhyming with
each other; also ‘vice’ and ‘destroys,’ ‘power’ and ‘secure,’
‘safe’ and ‘laugh,’ ‘obey’ and ‘tea,’ &c. Some of these may have
been peculiar to the poet himself, and may be regarded as bad
rhymes; still, as Pope was an authority for the language of his own
time, most of them were, in all probability, recognised as correct.

Stories are told of the peculiar pronunciation of some of the
leading literati of the last century which appear scarcely
credible. Dr. Johnson is said to have pronounced the word ‘fair’
like ‘fear,’ and the adverb ‘once’ as if written ‘woonse.’ He also
called ‘punch’ ‘poonsh.’ Garrick was often remarked for saying
‘shupreme’ and ‘shuperior’ for ‘supreme’ and ‘superior.’ He also
pronounced ‘Israel’ as ‘Isrel,’ ‘villain’ as if ‘villin,’ and,
still more strangely, ‘appeal’ as ‘appal.’

John Kemble had several peculiarities of pronunciation. He
is known to have always said ‘bird’ for ‘beard,’ ‘ferse’ for
‘fierce,’ and my head ‘aitches’ (for ‘aches’). He persisted,
too, in pronouncing ‘Cato’ with the _a_ broad, as if written
‘Cāāto.’ Of this peculiarity an amusing anecdote is related. ‘One
evening, at the Dublin Theatre, after the performance of Addison’s
tragedy, the manager appeared on the stage, and made the following
statement:--“Ladies and gentlemen, to-morrow evening, with your
permission, the tragedy of Cato will be repeated, the part of
‘_Cāāto_’ by Mr. Kemble.”’

Another story is told of the same eminent actor, who, when George
III. said to him: ‘Mr. Kemble, will you “obleege” me with a pinch
of your snuff?’ replied: ‘With pleasure, your Majesty; but it would
become your royal lips much better to say “oblīge.”’

Some of the actor Quin’s pronunciations would be now considered
very singular. He always pronounced the word ‘face’ as if written
‘fāāce,’ and said ‘trōpically’ for ‘trŏpically.’ Also, in a
certain classical drama, addressing the Roman guard, he desired
them to lower their ‘faces’ (meaning their ‘fasces’).

But, whatever may be the recognised standard of pronunciation,
there always will be a refined and a vulgar mode of speech--one
adopted by the cultivated and well-informed, and the other used by
the rude and illiterate. It must be understood that there are only
two ways in which our pronunciation may be at fault. 1. The accent
may be placed on the wrong syllable; or, 2. a wrong sound may be
given to the vowels. Under the first head may be placed such faults
as the following:--Some will say ‘fánatic’ instead of ‘fanátic,’
and perhaps as often ‘lunátic’ for ‘lúnatic.’ Again, ‘mischíevous’
is wrong, both in accent and tone; for the accent should here
be on the first syllable, and the sound of the second should be
close--míschĭevous. We also not unfrequently hear people call the
word ‘extánt,’ instead of ‘éxtant;’ but, as the accent is always
on the first in words of a like formation--such as ‘cónstant,’
‘dístant,’ ‘ínstant,’ &c.--there is no good reason why ‘éxtant’
should be made an exception. Another word in which the accent is
often misplaced is ‘réspĭted.’ Many will say ‘respíted,’ which is
decidedly against good usage.

In some words the accent still seems to be unsettled. Perhaps we
hear the word ‘óbdurate’ as often with the accent on the second as
on the first syllable. Many scholars pronounce the word ‘obdūrate,’
probably because the _u_ is long in the Latin ‘dūrus;’ but this
must also follow the accent of similar forms. We always say
‘áccŭrate,’ ‘índŭrate,’ ‘áugŭrate,’ ‘sátŭrate,’ &c.; and therefore,
by analogy, it should be óbdŭrate.’

By many the accent is placed on the second syllable of the word
‘applicable;’ but the general custom is to lay it on the first, and
the best practice is to say ‘ápplicable,’ and not ‘applícable.’

Another case of wrong tone may be heard in the pronunciation of the
word ‘_ínfĭnĭte_.’ We still not unfrequently hear in the pulpit,
‘infinīte goodness,’ &c. In dissyllables ‘īte’ final is sometimes
pronounced long; as in ‘polīte,’ ‘finīte,’ ‘recīte,’ &c.; but in
words of more than two syllables the final ‘ite’ is, with few
exceptions, pronounced short. We always (properly) say ‘definĭte,’
‘exquisĭte,’ ‘opposĭte,’ ‘favourĭte,’ &c.

Many have special difficulties in the pronunciation of certain
consonants. The correct sound of _r_ is a medium between the strong
rough _R_ of the Irish, and the feeble indistinct tone given it
by the London cockney. The Irishman will tell you that he is very
‘wa_r_(u)m’ after his ‘wo_r_(u)k.’ But in London, one often hears,
instead of ‘garden,’ ‘g_au_den,’ for ‘forth’ ‘f_au_th,’ and for
‘card’ ‘c_au_d,’ &c.

Many Englishmen have a difficulty in pronouncing the rough _r_,
substituting for it the sound of _w_. These say ‘_w_oom’ for
‘_r_oom,’ ‘p_w_oduct’ for ‘p_r_oduct,’ ‘_w_agged’ for ‘_r_agged,’
&c. This habit, unless checked early, is likely to become incurable.

Others again contract a vicious habit of pronouncing the _r_ far
back in the throat, instead of forming it by vibrating the tip of
the tongue. This is what the French call ‘_parler gras_.’

There is one very improper use of _r_ which must be here mentioned;
viz. the addition of this letter to certain words ending in _a_.
Some pronounce ‘sofa’ as if written ‘sofa_r_.’ Also they speak of
their papa_r_ and mamma_r_, &c. It is scarcely necessary to say
that this is a positive vulgarism.

Nowhere, perhaps, is the perversity of our nature more evident than
in the pronunciation of, (1), _h_ silent and _h_ aspirate; and,
(2), _v_ and _w_. These sounds are constantly confounded. Many
pronounce _h_ where it is not required, and leave it out where
it should be sounded. They will say ‘abit’ for ‘habit,’ ‘erd’
for ‘herd,’ ‘ill’ for ‘hill,’ ‘old’ for ‘hold,’ &c.; and, on the
other hand, ‘_h_all’ for ‘all,’ ‘_h_odd’ for ‘odd,’ ‘_h_uncle’ for
‘uncle,’ &c.

The same vice exists in the pronunciation of _v_ and _w_. It is
clear that the speaker _can_ pronounce both these letters, but he
inveterately persists in misplacing them. He will say ‘_w_eal’ and
‘_w_inegar,’ and at the same time, ‘_V_y do you _v_eep?’ These
faults are made almost exclusively by ignorant, uneducated people.

Under this head may be also mentioned the incorrect pronunciation
of _wh_ initial. By many the _h_ is here left out altogether,
and these pronounce the pronoun _which_ exactly as if written
‘_witch_.’ In Anglo-Saxon, whence all this class of words
comes, they were spelled, and probably pronounced, with the _h_
first--‘_hw_;’ and even now, if we listen attentively to those who
pronounce them correctly, we shall always hear the aspirate first.
We should surely make a difference between ‘_wh_o’ and ‘_w_oo,’
‘_wh_en’ and ‘_w_en,’ ‘_wh_ere’ and ‘_w_ear,’ &c.; and, though it
would be incorrect to mark the aspirate too roughly, the _h_ in
such words should be always fairly brought out.

We also perpetually hear (especially in London) words ending
in ‘_ing_’ pronounced as if written ‘_in_;’ as, for example,
‘stand_in_,’ ‘runn_in_,’ ‘go_in_,’ for ‘stand_ing_,’ ‘runn_ing_,’
go_ing_,’ &c. In one case a _k_ is put for the g. ‘Nothin_k_’ is
said for ‘nothing.’

There is a disposition in many readers and speakers to give a
sort of veiled sound to unaccented monosyllables, so that the
true pure tone of the vowel is not heard. This is a very common
fault. By such readers ‘for’ is pronounced ‘_fur_,’ ‘of’ is called
‘_uv_,’ ‘not’ ‘_nut_,’ ‘from’ ‘_frum_,’ and ‘was’ ‘_wuz_,’ &c. &c.
It should be remembered that, whether such words be, or be not,
accented, the sound of the vowel should always be full and pure.

A point of great importance is to always carefully give the true
sound to an unaccented vowel which begins a word. We should never
let _e_motion degenerate into ‘_imm_otion,’ ‘_e_mergency’ into
‘_imm_ergency,’ ‘_o_bedience’ into ‘_ub_bedience,’ &c. No accent,
however, should be placed on these syllables, but the initial vowel
should be always pronounced in its proper and pure sound.

It is right to be just as careful with vowels which are medial
and unaccented. We should not allow ‘mon_u_ment’ to sound as
‘mon_i_ment,’ nor must ‘calc_u_late’ be pronounced with the u
close. This fault often happens with words ending in ‘_e_ty’ or
‘_i_ty.’ We hear over and over again, in the pulpit, the words
‘trin_i_ty,’ ‘dign_i_ty,’ ‘soci_e_ty,’ &c. pronounced as if written
‘trin_a_ty,’ ‘dign_a_ty,’ ‘soci_a_ty,’ &c.

The pronunciation of the word ‘knowledge,’ with the o long, is
still occasionally heard; but it is now almost universally called
‘knŏwledge’ (to rhyme with ‘college’).

Some pronounce ‘haunt,’ ‘jaunt,’ ‘taunt,’ ‘jaundice,’ &c. with the
diphthong broad, having the same sound as in ‘r_aw_’ or ‘s_aw_.’
But all these should rhyme with ‘aunt,’ which is never pronounced

The ending ‘_ile_’ of certain adjectives sometimes offers a
difficulty of pronunciation. Here, in the words ‘hostīle,’
‘missīle,’ ‘servīle,’ ‘reptīle,’ ‘puerīle,’ and ‘volatīle’ the
_i_ has a long sound; but in ‘fertĭle,’ ‘fragĭle,’ ‘futĭle,’ and
‘imbecĭle’ the _i_ must be short.

Some incorrectly give the long sound ‘īle’ to the broader diphthong
‘_oi_l.’ They call ‘_oi_l’ ‘īle,’ ‘boil’ and ‘broil’ ‘bīle’ and
‘brīle,’ &c. In the age of the poet Pope, these two sounds were
probably closer to each other than they are now; for he makes
‘_join_’ rhyme with ‘_line_:‘--

      While expletives their feeble aid do _join_,
      And ten low words oft creep in one dull _line_.

A story is told of some one dining at a tavern who was asked by the
waiter whether he wished to have his sole ‘_brīled_?’ To which he
replied that he did not care whether it was ‘brīled’ or ‘bīled,’ as
long as it was not ‘spīled!!’

The words ‘fast,’ ‘past,’ ‘mast,’ and other similar combinations
are often pronounced either too broad or too close. In the
provinces we often hear ‘m_au_ster,’ ‘f_au_st,’ ‘p_au_st,’ and
‘c_au_nt,’ whilst the affected Londoner says ‘m_ĕ_ster,’ ‘f_ĕ_st,’
‘p_ĕ_st,’ &c.

Neither of the two is right, but the proper pronunciation lies
between them. Again, ‘pūt’ (which rhymes with ‘foot’) must
not be called ‘pŭt’ (to rhyme with ‘bŭt’), nor must pūlpit be
called pŭlpit. Some persist in pronouncing ‘covetous’ as if
written ‘covet_i_ous,’ and ‘tremendous’ as ‘tremend_i_ous;’ and
these are apparently equally attached to ‘pron_ou_nciation’ and
‘ar_e_thmetic.’ Lastly, the participle of the verb ‘to be’ must
always sound exactly like the vegetable ‘bēan,’ and not as a

The letter _u_, in many words, is really a diphthong, and has the
double sound of e + oo. This is heard in such words as ‘tüne,’
‘stüpid,’ ‘tübe,’ ‘prodüce,’ ‘solitüde,’ ‘pictüre,’ &c., which
should be sounded as if written ‘te + une,’ ‘ste + upid,’ ‘te
+ ube,’ &c., the one part uttered rapidly after the other. But
many pronounce such words, incorrectly, as if written ‘toone,’
‘stoopid,’ ‘pict_er_,’ &c. This is a vicious cockney pronunciation.

There is no termination we should be more careful to pronounce
fairly out than ‘_ow_’ final, which, when unaccented, frequently
degenerates into ‘_er_.’ The words are properly pronounced
‘wid_ow_,’ ‘wind_ow_,’ and ‘fell_ow_,’ &c., and not ‘widd_er_,’
‘wind_er_,’ and ‘fell_er_!!’

The word ‘tobacc_o_’ also is often wrongly pronounced ‘tobacc_er_.’

Some, who would be over-refined in their pronunciation, make two
syllables (instead of one) of the words ‘sky,’ ‘kind.’ They expand
them into ‘ske-y,’ ‘key-ind,’ &c. This is an absurd affectation.

A clear distinct articulation is an essential principle of a
correct pronunciation; for, unless every syllable be uttered
clearly, the word cannot have its proper effect. How often do we
hear careless readers and speakers push one monosyllable into
another, so as to convey the impression that there is but one word,
where, in fact, there are two. How often do we hear: ‘_Frin_ this
case,’ instead of ‘_For_ in this case;’ ‘_Fra_ time,’ for ‘_For_ a
time;’ ‘_Nevery_ occasion,’ for ‘_On_ every occasion;’ ‘_Tinders_,’
for ‘_It_ hinders!’ &c.

Special care should be taken to utter _unaccented_ syllables
distinctly; as these are the most likely to be neglected. It is
this neglect which produces such bad pronunciations as ‘reg’lar,’
‘sing’lar,’ ‘sim’lar,’ and which makes ‘extr_a_ordinary,’
‘extr_or_dinary;’ ‘us_u_al,’ ‘uzhal;’ and ‘vi_o_lent,’ ‘vilent.’
It is from the same cause that the _d_ in ‘and’ (a word which is
seldom accented) is so frequently unheard, especially when the
following word begins with a vowel, in such forms as ‘He _an I_,’
for ‘He _and_ I;’ ‘My uncle _an_ aunt,’ for ‘my uncle _and_ aunt,’

The Irish have several peculiarities of pronunciation, which must
be here noticed.

1. They sound ‘ea’ (the long ē) as ‘ay;’ ‘plēase’ they pronounce
exactly as ‘plays,’ and ‘tēa’ as ‘tay.’

2. ‘Door’ and ‘floor’ properly rhyme with ‘more’ and ‘sore,’ but
the Irish give to these words the sound of ‘oo’ in ‘poor.’

3. They also pronounce ‘catch’ (which exactly rhymes with ‘match’)
as ‘ketch’ (to rhyme with ‘fetch’). This is also a vulgar
pronunciation in England.

4. They give the short instead of the more open sound of _u_ in
the words ‘pudding,’ ‘cushion,’ and ‘foot.’ They make ‘pudding’
rhyme with ‘sŭdden;’ ‘cushion’ with ‘rush on;’ and ‘foot’ with
‘but.’ They also give the same sound to the vowels in ‘strōve’ and
‘drōve,’ making them rhyme with ‘lŏve’ and ‘dŏve,’ and pronouncing
them as if they were written ‘struv’ and ‘druv.’

5. Another of their peculiarities is to leave out the ‘_g_’ in
‘strength’ and ‘length,’ pronouncing these words as if they were
written ‘strenth’ and ‘lenth.’ They also omit the ‘_d_,’ in
pronouncing ‘breadth,’ and call it ‘breth.’

6. They give the long sound of ‘_e_’ to the close ‘_i_’ in such
words as ‘del_i_cious,’ ‘mal_i_cious,’ ‘v_i_cious,’ &c., and call
them ‘del_ee_cious,’ ‘mal_ee_cious,’ ‘v_ee_cious.’

7. They pronounce ‘_o_’ before ‘_ld_’ like the ‘_ow_’ in ‘how,’
and they pronounce ‘cold’ and ‘bold’ as if these words rhymed with
‘howled’ or ‘growled.’



No language is, or ever has been, in the strict sense of the
word, _pure_. All languages are continually borrowing and
lending--adopting words from foreign sources, and contributing from
their own store to that of others. It is now well known that the
ancient Greeks borrowed largely from the Oriental tongues, and lent
words and forms to Latin. Latin, again, borrowed from Greek, and
contributed to form the modern Italian, Spanish, and French. The
modern German language is just now strongly affected by a French
influence; and French itself, though for the most part Latin,
contains many Celtic and not a few Germanic words. Spanish, which
is in the main Latin, has a very considerable admixture of Arabic,
brought in by the Moors in the eighth century; and English is well
known to be made up of Anglo-Saxon, Norman, French, and Latin.

But languages are not only subject to these attacks from without,
a process of internal corruption is also set up, and appears in
various forms. One of these may be recognised in the principle of
contraction. It may be laid down as a rule that words, as they grow
older, degenerate in meaning and contract in form. This contraction
probably originated in a loose, careless way of speaking, which
afterwards affected the written language. Sometimes a letter or
syllable is cut off from the beginning of a word; sometimes one
is taken from the middle, or from the end. ‘_Bus_’ is now all we
have left (at any rate, in ordinary conversation) of ‘_omnibus_.’
‘_Fantasy_’ has lost its middle syllable, and appears as ‘_fancy_’
and ‘_cab_’ does duty for ‘_cabriolet_.’ One conclusion this result
enables us to draw is that the contracted forms are always the more
modern. The form ‘courtesy’ existed before ‘curtsy;’ ‘procurator’
preceded ‘proctor;’ and ‘minute’ was known before ‘mite.’ Whether
these contractions are to be regarded favourably or otherwise may
be a question, but there is no doubt that they are all produced by
the operation of a natural law of language which no human power
will ever be able to prevent.

When a word is warped or distorted from its original form, either
by a vicious or slovenly pronunciation, or from a mistaken notion
of its derivation, it is said to be a corruption. One of these
corruptions appears in our word ‘surgeon.’ The French ‘chirurgien,’
from which it immediately comes, shows more clearly its Greek
origin--χεὶρ (cheir), a hand; and ἔργω (ergo), I work--i.e. a
hand-worker, or manual operator. But a careless pronunciation,
probably aided by a natural tendency to contraction, has caused the
word with us to dwindle down to ‘surgeon.’

As an illustration of corruption arising from a false notion of
its derivation, we may take the word ‘i_s_land.’ How did the _s_
get into it? This _s_ is not sounded, and yet it must be written.
In the one word ‘island,’ there is a mixture of Latin and German.
The first syllable is of Romance, and the second of Teutonic
origin. The Latin for ‘island’ is ‘insula,’ from ‘in’ and ‘salo,’
the ‘salt,’ i.e. in the salt (sea, understood). The Anglo-Saxon
word for the same idea was ‘ea-land.’ Here ‘_ea_’ means ‘water.’
This ‘_ea_,’ or ‘_ey_,’ is found in many names of islands,
as ‘Angles_ea_,’ ‘Jers_ey_,’ ‘Guerns_ey_,’ &c. ‘_Ea_-land,’
then meant ‘water-land,’ or ‘land surrounded by water.’ In the
earlier editions of ‘Paradise Lost,’ the word always appears
written ‘iland’ (without the _s_), which points more clearly to
its Saxon derivation, and is nearer in spelling to the modern
German--‘Eiland.’ The ‘_s_’ was afterwards inserted, from a
mistaken notion that the word was of Latin, and not German, origin.

A false analogy will sometimes give rise to a corrupted form of
spelling. The past tense of ‘can’ was originally ‘coude,’ not
‘cou_l_d;’ and the _l_ was afterwards introduced, from the apparent
analogy of the word to ‘wou_l_d,’ from ‘will,’ and ‘shou_l_d,’
from ‘shall.’ This, then, is a corruption. But, though at first
incorrect, the _l_ must, of course, be now retained.

Proper names, both of places and persons, have suffered a good
deal from this influence. Words of this class are most likely to
be corrupted, because they are most frequently in the mouths of
the common people. That ‘Birmingham’ should be called ‘Brummagem,’
‘Cirencester,’ ‘Siseter,’ and ‘Wavertree,’ ‘Wartree,’ is not
surprising when we remember that these corruptions originated with
those who had often to pronounce, but seldom, if ever, to write
these names. But what is, perhaps, more strange, many of these
corruptions are now adopted by the upper classes. Thus, in all
ranks of society, the proper name ‘Beauchamp’ is now pronounced
‘Beecham;’ ‘St. John’ is called ‘Sinjon;’ ‘Cholmondeley’ is
pronounced ‘Chumley,’ and ‘Marjoribanks’ ‘Marchbanks.’

_Slang Words._

Among the many signs of the corruption of the English language,
one, which is not the least remarkable, is the prevalent use of
slang words and phrases. That certain terms should be peculiar
to certain callings, trades, or professions, may be naturally
expected, but that these should be extended into general
conversation, is a corroborative proof of the strong liking
people now have for any thing unusual or out-of-the-way. One very
curious fact may be here observed. While the style of most of
our periodical writers soars upwards, and affects the lofty and
sublime, that of general conversation is the very reverse, and
sinks to the low and vulgar.

A difference must be here made between ‘cant’ and ‘slang.’ The
first signifies the secret language of thieves, beggars, and
tramps, by which they endeavour to conceal their evil deeds from
the public. The knowledge and practice of this kind of language
is confined to the above-named fraternities. But slang consists
of those vulgar, unauthorised terms, which have come into fashion
during the last eighty or ninety years, and which are not confined
to one class, but may be now heard in almost every grade of society.

In all trades and professions there are certain terms peculiar
to each, which are properly called ‘technical;’ these can hardly
be denominated slang. For example, in the language of actors, a
‘_length_’ signifies forty-two lines of the part each has to study
for the stage. They say, a part consists of so many ‘lengths.’
This, and other such terms, are seldom, if ever, heard beyond
the circle to which they properly belong. But slang is found in
almost all classes of society. That of high life is drawn from
various sources. One of its phases may be seen in the French
words and forms which would-be fashionable people so delight in
using. To call a breakfast a _déjeuner_ is absurd, especially
as we have a very good word of our own to express that meal.
Leaders of fashion never speak of the fashionable world; but
always of the ‘beau monde.’ This ‘beau monde,’ they tell us, give
‘recherchés’ entertainments, attended by the ‘élite’ of society.
Lady _So_-and-_So_ gave a ‘thé dansant,’ which, of course, ‘went
off with éclat,’ &c. &c. Many so-called fashionable ladies and
gentlemen would, probably, be deeply offended to hear such language
termed slang; but any words or forms which are not recognised
English certainly deserve to be so stigmatised.

This form of slang is confined chiefly to the would-be
fashionables, and to those writers of very questionable taste, who
use what they think funny and startling expressions in a novel and
flippant way. Cookery also has given us much slang of this sort. If
we were to ask, in an ordinary English hotel, for ‘côtelettes à la
jardinière,’ or a ‘vol-au-vent à la financière,’ the people of the
house would probably stare at us; but these and such expressions
form the staple of the style of many popular novelists.

Of parliamentary slang, too, there is no lack of examples. Lord
Palmerston, and Mr. Disraeli are perhaps better known as _Pam_
and _Dizzy_, than by their proper names. A single vote to one
candidate at an election is called a ‘plumper;’ and those who
have boiled a pot in a house, to qualify themselves to vote,
are termed ‘potwallopers.’ Among military men, anyone unusually
particular about his dress or personal appearance, is a ‘dandy’ or
a ‘swell.’ They also call a ‘title’ a ‘handle to your name,’ and a
kind-hearted, good-natured fellow is, with them, a ‘trump,’ or a

The Universities also have their slang terms. The graduates use
‘crib’ for a house; ‘deadmen’ for empty wine-bottles; ‘governor,’
or ‘relieving-officer,’ for a father; ‘plucked,’ for defeated or
rejected in an examination; and ‘row’ for a disturbance.

The Eton and Harrow boys make use among themselves of many slang
terms, which are not often heard outside their bounds; but
when they return home for the holidays, they frequently infect
their sisters with some of their strange phraseology. A boy will
sometimes puzzle his sisters at home, by asking them if they do not
find his ‘toggery’ absolutely ‘stunning;’ or what they think of his
‘tile,’ or white ‘choker;’ adding that they are not yet paid for;
but that he supposes the ‘governor’ will have to ‘stump up,’ or
‘fork out the blunt,’ &c.

Lawyers also have their slang; and this is not surprising, when we
remember the many opportunities they must have of hearing it, from
their connection with the police courts, and with life in its worst
phases. With them, taking the benefit of the Insolvent Debtors Act,
is to be ‘white-washed;’ and to draw up a fraudulent balance-sheet
is to ‘cook’ accounts, &c.

But of all the forms of slang, the one most abundant in variety of
terms is the mercantile. It has been calculated that there are as
many as thirty-six vulgar synonyms for the one simple word _money_.
The following are a few of them: ‘_blunt_,’ ‘_tin_,’ ‘_coppers_,’
‘_browns_,’ ‘_shiners_,’ ‘_yellow-boys_,’ ‘_flimsies_’ (bank
notes); ‘_fivers_’ (five pound notes), &c. &c. In city phraseology,
100,000_l._ is called a _plum_, and one million sterling is a
_marigold_. On the Stock Exchange buyers and sellers for the
account are called ‘bulls’ and ‘bears:’ a broker who is unable to
pay his debts, is there called ‘a lame duck;’ and, if expelled from
the house, he is said ‘to waddle.’

But though most of these terms will never form a legitimate part
of the English language, some of them are certainly not considered
so vulgar as others. It is said that the elegant Lord Chesterfield
was the author of the word ‘humbug,’ which, though it may have
been considered as slang in his day, can hardly be so called now.
Another word, ‘hoax,’ was condemned by Swift as low and vulgar,
this, too, has made its way; and is now not so revolting to good
taste as it probably was when first used. Both these words,
‘humbug’ and ‘hoax,’ are to be found in Dr. Latham’s edition of
_Johnson’s Dictionary_.

Thackeray immortalised ‘snob’ in his celebrated ‘papers;’ and
though the word is not to be recommended, it must be allowed that
it is very expressive. Lord Cairns, in a speech in the House of
Commons, called ‘dodge’ ‘that homely but expressive term.’ Nor is
‘crusty,’ in the sense of ‘peevish,’ so low as it was once thought.
It has long been a question, whether the word ‘bamboozle’ should be
admitted. This also is to be found in Latham’s _Johnson_, though it
is there entered as ‘colloquial.’

But though it may be allowed to use some of these terms
occasionally in familiar discourse, no one of any sense or good
taste will ever think of indulging in slang language, either spoken
or written. It is, no doubt, a bad sign of the times, and much to
be deplored, that it is so common. Some writers have calculated
that there are, at least, three thousand slang terms in common use.
The above are but a few examples of this widespread corruption. We
may regard it, as concerns our language, in the light of a pest
to society. It takes a long time to clear the atmosphere from the
baneful influences of certain epidemics. Now, the language of
every-day conversation is suffering from this infectious disease,
and it becomes the duty of every Englishman who has a proper
feeling for his language, to refrain from this evil himself, and to
throw in its way every possible discouragement.


The recklessness with which the Americans use the English language
bids fair to flood it with many new and strange terms. It is very
possible that some of these words may some day take their places as
forming part of the legitimate materials of our language; and it
is also possible, as the Americans themselves sometimes declare,
that some of the words and phrases which are now called American,
are, in reality, genuine English words which have become obsolete
in the mother tongue. But, in the mean time, they certainly must be
regarded as interlopers--candidates for an office to which they are
not yet, if they ever will be, entitled.

One rather curious explanation has been given of the word ‘guess.’
It is well known that the Americans use it in the sense of _to know
for certain_. ‘I guess’ is equivalent, in American phraseology, to
‘I know it’--‘I am sure of it.’ Now, it has been argued that this
is the proper meaning of the word--that it is derived from the
German ‘gewiss,’ which comes originally from ‘wissen,’ to know.
When first imported into America, in the seventeenth century, they
say that it had this meaning in English--that we in England have
since then altered the meaning of the word, and that the Americans
have preserved its original signification. Even supposing that this
could be proved, it does not follow that the American practice is
the right one; nor, of course, that we should alter our present
meaning of the word, and conform to the American custom. The
fountain-head of the English language is in England, and in no
other country; and all departures from the English use of English
words must be looked upon as faults against purity of style.

Americanisms may be considered under two heads--1st, legitimate
English words used in a wrong sense; and, 2nd, words of a new
invention, mutilated or distorted from some known or unknown root.
In the first class we may place the adjective ‘tall.’ This the
Americans use in a novel and unrecognised sense. In English it is
properly applied only to concrete nouns; as, ‘a tall man,’ or ‘a
tall tree,’ &c. But, in the United States, we continually hear of
‘tall talk,’ or even ‘a tall smell,’ &c. It is not the word that
is here objected to, but the sense in which it is applied. To
‘raise’ is another of this class, which is constantly used for ‘to
educate,’ or ‘bring up.’ ‘Where were you raised?’ is, in America,
a very common question. Again, the word ‘liquor’ is a perfectly
good English noun; but what a strange innovation is ‘to liquor!’
A genuine Yankee says, ‘Stranger, will you “liquor?”’ ‘Handsome,’
‘clever,’ and ‘fix’ are all three genuine English, but ‘to play
_handsome_ on the flute’ is undoubtedly bad English. We sometimes
qualify persons, but never things, as ‘clever.’ A ‘clever’ boy, or
a ‘clever’ man, &c., but never, as in America, a ‘clever’ house
or a ‘clever’ cargo. Again, in America a very common use of ‘to
fix’ is ‘to prepare,’ or ‘put in order.’ This is not sanctioned
by English usage. But ‘a fix,’ in the sense of a dilemma or
predicament, is condemned by literary men in the United States as
a vulgarism.

The other class consists of words wholly unrecognised in English in
any sense--in fine, genuine Americanisms; such words as ‘secesh,’
‘skedaddle,’ ‘recuperate,’ ‘rowdy,’ ‘rile,’ ‘stampede,’ &c., which
can in no sense be said to belong to our language. Nor is it likely
that English writers of any pretensions to good taste will ever
adopt them. The Americans call the English ‘Britishers;’ to tease
or vex anyone is, with them, ‘to rile’ him; to make a set speech is
to ‘orate;’ a sudden panic and flight of soldiers is a ‘stampede,’
&c. There are other words of this class which it would puzzle most
English writers to explain; such as ‘slick,’ ‘spry,’ ‘kedge,’
‘boss,’ ‘absquatulate,’ &c. These are not English words, and we may
pretty confidently predict that they will never become English.

There can be little doubt, however, that certain expressions now
known as Americanisms were, at one time, very commonly used in
English. Madame D’Arblay, as well as other writers of her time,
has, over and over again, ‘mighty fine,’ ‘mighty pretty,’ &c.
‘Mighty pretty’ is exactly on a par with ‘_uncommon_ nice.’ The one
is just as incorrect as the other. This is a form of expression
continually used by American writers. Forty or fifty years ago the
adjective ‘rare’ was commonly used for ‘underdone’ (meat). Now,
though common enough in the United States, it is seldom, if ever,
applied by us in that sense. Some of these peculiarities appear
to be making way in English, in spite of our struggles against
them. Such are ‘to progress’ for ‘to advance,’ ‘to effectuate’ for
‘to accomplish,’ ‘right off,’ or ‘right away,’ for ‘at once’ or
‘immediately,’ ‘laid over’ for ‘put off,’ &c.

The Americans use ‘tiresome’ for ‘tiring;’ they speak of a
‘tiresome’--for a fatiguing--journey. Also a ‘good’ time is used
for a ‘pleasant’ time, ‘fall’ for ‘autumn,’ and to ‘go-a-head’ for
‘to prosper.’ One American word which seems likely to establish
itself in the English language is, ‘a loafer.’ This would seem to
be derived from the German ‘laufen,’ to run, though it has not that
meaning in the United States, where it signifies one who lounges
about lazily.

In America many new terms are the offspring of a political
excitement, which is sure to occur every four years, i.e. as often
as a new President is elected. On these occasions such words as
‘Copperheads,’ ‘Ring-tailed Roarers,’ ‘Know-nothings,’ ‘Fenians,’
‘Wolverines,’ &c., &c., are sure to make their appearance. These
words may have a meaning for those who invent and use them, but to
the great majority of Englishmen they are altogether a mystery.

Language, in the hands of a great poet, has been often called
‘a flame of fire.’ However this may be, in the hands of certain
American journalists it does seem, now and then, very likely to
burn their own fingers. In the New York papers we meet with the
verb ‘to concertize,’ which may possibly mean to give a succession
of concerts. We remember hearing that process once called ‘going
about matinéeing!’ And there is quite as good authority for the
one as for the other of these expressions. Another unintelligible
phrase, drawn from the same source, is ‘an _emergent_ meeting.’
This word is never used, in modern English, in a concrete sense.
We may say an _emergent_ occasion or _emergent_ doubts, but not an
_emergent_ candidate or an _emergent_ character. It is possible
that the writer meant a meeting called together on an emergency.

The rapid communication established of late years between England
and the United States has brought the two nations into a much
closer connection with each other. This, in a commercial or a
political view, may be of great advantage to both countries.
But every advantage has its drawback, and it is very doubtful
whether this condition of things is likely to benefit the English
language. The Americans are well known to set great store by
liberty, and of course we have no right whatever to interfere
with their opinions concerning principles or forms of political
government. But it becomes a serious matter for us when they
think proper to take liberties with our language. They set up for
themselves, probably by way of showing their independence, new
modes of spelling; and they are perpetually introducing all sorts
of meanings, words, and phrases, none of which have the remotest
title to be called English. In the writings of the late N. P.
Willis, we meet with such terms as the following:--‘An unletupable
nature,’ ‘wideawakeity,’ ‘plumptitude,’ ‘pocketually speaking,’
‘betweenity,’ and ‘go-awayness!’ In the same gentleman’s writings,
we occasionally come across such elegant forms of expression as
‘whipping creation,’ ‘flogging Europe,’ ‘a heap of opinions,’
‘tarnation quick,’ &c. These and all such must be looked upon as
abortions or deformities of our language; and no English writer
who has any respect for his own reputation should ever think of
countenancing, far less of adopting, such monstrosities.



In old English spelling, we frequently meet with _y_ initial,
where we now use _th_; as in ‘_ye_ manners and _ye_ customs,’ &c.
This error probably arose from the blundering of the copyists, who
mistook one letter for another. Down to the close of the reign of
Edward III., two characters of the Saxon alphabet were in common
use, which we have now rejected; tha (þ) (_th_ hard), and edh
(ð) (_th_ soft). The first of these, (þ), somewhat resembled a
_y_ in shape; and hence the mistake. This is, probably, the true
explanation of the case, as _y_ was, in all these instances, used
where we now have _th_.

Y initial, as indicating a participle or an intensive meaning, has
now become obsolete in English. But it lingered in the language
till the seventeenth century, as may be seen in Milton. ‘In heaven
_y_clept Euphrosyne.’ This is the _ge_ initial of the modern
German, as in ‘_ge_kannt,’ ‘_ge_brochen,’ &c. Our word ‘guess,’
is supposed to be connected with the German ‘gewiss;’ where the
initial _ge_ may be referred to the same source. In comparing
certain German with English words, we may see that this prefix (_g_
or _y_) has, in most cases, fallen off, though in some few words
it still retains its place. The German ‘_G_lück,’ is in English
‘luck,’ and the German ‘_g_leich’ has become with us ‘like.’
Again,’to _g_low’ was, in Saxon, ‘hlowian.’ We retain the _g_ in
‘gleam,’ and ‘glimpse,’ though we lose it in ‘light.’ The same
connection may be observed between the German ‘_g_ern,’ and the
English ‘_y_earn.’

Many are puzzled when to use _ei_ and when _ie_ in the spelling of
certain English words, when these combinations are pronounced as a
long _e_. The rule is, that when a sibilant (_c_ or _s_) precedes,
_ei_ is the right spelling; but that when any other consonant
comes before, _ie_ should be written. Thus, ‘_sei_ze, con_cei_ve,
_cei_ling, de_cei_t,’ &c., must have _ei_; whilst ‘be_lie_ve,
pr_ies_t, _chie_f, re_trie_ve,’ &c., must be spelled _ie_. The word
‘siege’ is an exception; we here adopt the French spelling.

It is generally well known that the prefixes _ante_ and _anti_
have, in English, each a distinct meaning. ‘Ant_e_’ is the Latin
preposition for ‘before.’ It is found in ‘ant_e_date’ (to date
before); ‘ant_e_chamber’ (a waiting-room _before_ another);
‘ant_e_cedent’ (going _before_), &c. ‘Anti’ is originally Greek,
and means ‘against.’ It is found in ‘ant_i_pathy’ (a feeling
_against_); ‘ant_i_dote’ (a medicine given _against_); i.e. as a
preventive. But there is one exception to this explanation; viz.
‘ant_i_cipate.’ ‘Anti,’ in this case, does not mean ‘against,’ but
beforehand. To ‘anticipate’ is to enjoy or suffer prospectively.
The Latin _i_ always becomes an _e_ in French; and vice versâ.
This is considered as an organic law of transformation. The
Latin mih_i_, tib_i_, sib_i_, _i_n, _i_nter, &c., are in
French m_e_, t_e_, s_e_, _e_n, _e_ntre. On the other hand, the
Latin ‘impl_ē_re,’ ‘fall_ĕ_re,’ ‘leg_ĕ_re,’ ‘quaer_ĕ_re,’ and
‘flor_ĕ_re,’ are in French, rempl_i_r, ‘faill_i_r,’ ‘l_i_re,’
‘quér_i_r,’ and ‘fleur_i_r.’ This may be seen in ‘antichambre,’
‘antidater,’ &c.; and the English has, in this one case,
‘anticipate,’ adopted the French form of spelling.

The difference in pronunciation between such words as ‘hōme,’ and
‘sŏme;’ ‘bōne’ and ‘dŏne;’ ‘alōne’ and ‘gŏne,’ depends on their
derivation. In these cases, the long ō corresponds with the modern
German ‘_ei_.’ The German ‘Heim’ is the English ‘hōme.’ ‘Bein’ is
in English bōne; ‘allein,’ ‘alōne,’ &c., whereas the closer sound
of _ŏ_ approaches to a closer sound of _a_ or _o_ in German. Hence,
the root _sam_ (as in _sam_meln), gives the English ‘sŏme.’ ‘Dŏne’
is from ‘gethăn,’ ‘cŏme,’ from ‘kŏmmen,’ &c. From the same cause,
the adverb ‘_so_’ in English has the same long sound as in German;
whereas ‘_tŏ_’ and ‘_dŏ_,’ being from ‘zu’ and ‘thun,’ have a
closer pronunciation.

It is natural to expect that as the genius of a people powerfully
influences the spelling of their common terms, the same cause
should operate in that of their proper names, both of persons and
places. With respect to names of places, there is now and then some
difficulty. The inhabitants of a town or country do not always give
it the name by which it is known to foreigners. An English tourist
who is a novice in continental travel, arrives at a town he has
been accustomed to call ‘_Aix_,’ or ‘Aix-la-Chapelle;’ and he is
not a little puzzled to hear it named ‘_Aachen_.’ It is doubtful
whether many English would recognise the German word; and yet it is
certainly the one used by the Prussians from time immemorial. There
are many other continental towns with whose names we English are,
in general, not familiar; for example, Lüttich (Liège), Regensburg
(Ratisbon), Bruxelles (Brussels), Kiobenhavn (Copenhagen),
Vliessingen (Flushing), Genf (Geneva), &c., &c.

That these differences should exist was but natural in bygone times
when there was so scanty a communication between one country and
another. But nowadays, when one touch of the telegraph ‘should make
the whole world akin,’ and when steamboats and railroads seem to be
literally annihilating both time and space, it is to be regretted
that some one standard form for the spelling of names of places
should not be agreed on, which all should adopt, and which would
be intelligible to the whole civilised world. There appears to be
some probability of the continental states adopting a standard
coin which shall have a universal currency. Why should they not
also determine on one standard form of spelling for the names of
all their towns and districts? The one change would not be more
difficult than the other.

One very striking peculiarity of the English language is the
extraordinary variety of senses in which many of our words,
especially those of Saxon origin, may be used. A curious instance
of this variety may be seen in the case of the verb ‘to get.’ For
example: ‘After I _got_ (received) your letter; I immediately _got_
(mounted) on horseback; and when I _got_ to (reached) Canterbury,
I _got_ (procured) a chaise, and proceeded to town. But, the rain
coming on, I _got_ (caught) such a severe cold, that I could
not _get_ rid of it for some days. When I _got_ home, I _got_
up-stairs, and _got_ to bed immediately; but the next morning
I found I could neither _get_ down stairs, _get_ my breakfast,
nor _get_ out of doors. I was afraid I should never _get_ over
this attack.’ It may be reasonably doubted whether any English
word of Latin or French origin has half so many and such various

‘_To put_’ is a verb of unsettled derivation; but it has an
endless variety of meanings: and is compounded with almost every
preposition in the language. Latham’s edition of _Johnson’s
Dictionary_ gives about seventy different senses of this one verb,
some of which are as follows: ‘A man _puts by_ money when he
saves it up; or he _puts away_ his wife when he divorces her. An
insurrection may be _put down_; or a man may _put down_ his name as
a subscriber. A tree _puts forth_ leaves, or a man _puts into_ a
lottery. He _puts off_ his clothes, or he _puts off_ a disagreeable
task; he _puts out_ his money at interest; or he _puts out_ the
light when he goes to bed; and he is terribly _put out_ when things
do not go well with him. He can _put together_ his thoughts; but he
cannot _put up_ with an insult. It is unpleasant to be _put upon_;
and sometimes very hard to _put_ things _to rights_.’

The French adverb très (very), is the Latin ‘trans’ (over, or
across.) The prefix ‘trans’ is of frequent use in English as in
‘transfer,’ ‘transfix,’ ‘transform,’ &c. We have adopted the
French ‘très’ in only one word; viz. ‘trespass.’ This signifies
either in a physical or moral sense, ‘to pass a boundary.’ It is
still used in English, chiefly as a term of law.

Some writers on language have objected to the order of words
generally adopted in certain colloquial expressions. They say that
in such phrases as ‘bred and born,’ ‘shoes and stockings,’ ‘coat
and waistcoat,’ &c., we put the cart before the horse. They would
have us say ‘born and bred,’ ‘stockings and shoes,’ &c. Their
argument is, that we should put these words in their _natural_
order, as to time--that as a man must be born before he is bred,
the proper order is ‘born and bred,’ and so on, in all other
cases of this sort. This, however, does not seem to be the right
view of the matter. In these expressions it should be remembered
that whatever comes first to our knowledge, or makes the deepest
impression on the mind, is naturally first uttered. True, a man
must be born before he is bred; but the idea conveyed in ‘bred’ is
first impressed on the mind, and therefore ‘bred and born’ is the
right order. Again, we see the shoes; we can but partially see the
stockings; and this is why the usual order is adopted.

Again: we never say ‘the sciences and arts;’ but always ‘the
arts and sciences.’ There is here, also, a very good reason for
the general practice. It must be remembered that the arts were
practised long before the sciences on which they are built were
discovered. Practice always precedes theory. Language was spoken
before grammars were written; music was played and sung before
the laws of harmony were understood; and therefore, it is but
reasonable that we should put the ‘arts before the sciences.’

It may seem strange that in addressing an audience, the English
always say ‘Ladies and Gentlemen!’ whereas in France we hear,
‘Messieurs et Mesdames,’ and in Germany, ‘Meine Herren und Damen.’
This order may have been adopted at a time when ladies had not
the influence in society which they now possess. We have not the
reputation for gallantry which our continental neighbours enjoy;
and yet, in this instance, we may perhaps set them a lesson of

Connected with this subject may be mentioned that doubling of terms
which occurs in our Liturgy so frequently, that it may be regarded
as a characteristic of its style. The compilers of our Church
Service, probably in their anxiety to make the text intelligible
even to the commonest understanding, continually put two nouns or
two verbs together, the second generally explaining the first. In
these cases we shall find one of the terms of French, or Latin,
and the other of Saxon derivation. This seems to have been done
purposely, in order that, if any of the congregation, especially
the less educated, should not understand the one term, he should
catch the meaning of the other. In the early prayers of the
‘Morning Service,’ we have: ‘We _pray_ and _beseech_ thee.’ We also
find ‘We _acknowledge_ and _confess_,’ ‘_sins_ and _wickedness_;’
‘_goodness_ and _mercy_;’ ‘_dissemble_ nor _cloak_;’ ‘_assemble_
and _meet together_;’ ‘_requisite_ and _necessary_;’ ‘_erred_ and
_strayed_;’ ‘_pardoneth_ and _absolveth_,’ and many others.

Certain writers on the English language have strongly objected to
the lately-introduced practice of forming participial adjectives
from nouns; especially in the case of the two words ‘talented’
and ‘gifted.’ As well, say they, might we call a man ‘wisdomed,’
‘geniused,’ or ‘knowledged.’ Coleridge, arguing against the
admission of the word ‘talented’ into English, says: ‘only imagine
other participles so formed, and conceive a man being said to be
‘pennied,’ ‘shillinged,’ and ‘pounded!’ But though we do not yet
use these latter terms, Coleridge seems to have forgotten that we
very commonly speak of a ‘moneyed’ man; and there is very little
doubt that these adjectives have struck too deep root in the
language to be easily eradicated.

The word ‘_reliable_,’ a comparatively late introduction, is
another of those against which the purists have raised a loud
outcry. They argue that as we do not rely a man, but rely _on_ a
man, therefore the word, if used at all, should be ‘reli_on_able,’
and not ‘reliable.’ But here is one of the many cases in which
philosophy must give way to custom; and, in spite of the above
objection, this word is too firmly fixed in the language to
be easily driven out. The real difference between ‘reliable’
and ‘trustworthy’ is, that the former applies more property to
things, such as news, information, &c., and the latter to persons.
A ‘trustworthy’ messenger would probably bring us ‘reliable’
information. But, whatever concession we may make in the case of
‘reliable,’ we should resist, with all our might, the introduction
of ‘reliability.’

Certain laws of transformation are found to operate in the Romance
languages. One of these is, that Latin or Italian words beginning
with _f_ appear in Spanish with an _h_ initial. Thus ‘filius,’
‘figlio’ (a son), is, in Spanish, ‘hijo.’ By the same law the
Latin ‘femina’ (a woman) becomes, in Spanish ‘hembra,’ ‘formosus’
(beautiful) is ‘_h_ermoso,’ ‘Fabulari,’ Italian ‘favellare’ (to
talk) is, in Spanish, ‘hablar.’ ‘Faba’ (a bean) is, in Spanish,
‘haba.’ The Latin ‘Facere,’ Italian ‘fare’ (to do), becomes
‘_h_acer,’ filum (thread) is ‘hilo,’ and folium (a leaf) ‘hoja,’

The Spanish word ‘hidalgo’ (a nobleman) is a contraction of ‘hijo
d’algo’ (filius alicujus), literally ‘the son of somebody,’ i.e.,
of importance.

It may also be observed that the combination _ct_ in Latin is found
in Italian _tt_ (or _t_), and in Spanish _ch_. This may be seen in
the following cases:--

    Lat.       Ital.      Span.

  Fa_ct_us    fa_tt_o    he_ch_o
  San_ct_us   san_t_o    san_ch_o
  Di_ct_us    de_tt_o    di_ch_o
  Dire_ct_us  diri_tt_o  dere_ch_o

Again, _pl_ in Latin becomes _pi_ in Italian and _ll_ in Spanish,
as in the following:--

   Lat.        Ital.      Span.

  _Pl_anus    _pi_ano    _ll_ano
  _Pl_enus    _pi_eno    _ll_eno
  _Pl_uvia    _pi_ova    _ll_uvia
  _Pl_anctus  _pi_anto   _ll_anto

Affinities also exist between certain letters of the alphabet; and
this relationship may be often seen in words transferred from one
language to another. For example, the labials, or lip-letters, are
frequently interchanged. Many English words beginning with an F are
derived from Latin (or French) words having a _P_ initial. This is
exemplified in the following list:--

   Latin.        French.    German.     English.

  _P_ater       _p_ère     _V_ater     _f_ather
  _P_iscis      _p_oisson  _F_isch     _f_ish
  _P_es-pedis   _p_ied     _F_uss      _f_oot
  _P_aucus      _p_eu        --        _f_ew
  _P_er         _p_our     _f_ür       _f_or
  _P_ellis      _p_eau     _F_ell      _f_ell
  _P_ullus      _p_oule    _V_ogel     _f_owl
  _P_ugnus      _p_oignée  _F_aust     _f_ist, &c.

Another affinity may be observed between _G_ and _W_. Many French
words beginning with a _G_ guttural represent that letter in
English by a _W_. This may be seen in the following cases:--

   French.      English.

  _g_ages      _w_ages
  _g_agner     _w_in
  _G_alles     _W_ales
  _g_arant     _w_arrant
  _g_are       (be)_w_are
  _g_arde      _w_ard
  _g_arenne    _w_arren
  _g_âter      _w_aste
  _G_aultier   _W_alter
  _g_aufre     _w_afer
  _g_uède      _w_oad
  _g_uèpe      _w_asp
  _g_uerdon    (re)_w_ard
  _g_uerre     _w_ar
  _g_uetter    _w_ait
  _g_ueule     _w_ell
  _g_uichet    _w_icket
  _G_uillaume  _W_illiam
  _g_uise      (like)_w_ise

This connection between the _G_ and _W_ may be also seen at the end
of many English compared with German words.

  German.      English.

  Sor_g_e      sorro_w_
  Fol_g_en     follo_w_
  mor_g_en     morro_w_
  bor_g_en     borro_w_
  bie_g_en     bo_w_
  heili_g_en   hallo_w_
  tra_g_en     dra_w_
  le_g_en      la_w_, &c.

A relationship is also to be seen between _C_ guttural and _H_
aspirate. The _C_ hard initial in the Romance languages is
represented in the Teutonic by an _H_. For example:--

   Latin.      French.     German.      English.

  _c_anis     _c_hien     _H_und       _h_ound
  _c_ollis    _c_olline   _H_ügel      _h_ill
  _c_entum    _c_ent      _h_undert    _h_undred
  _c_or       _c_œur      _H_erz       _h_eart
  _c_asa      _c_hez      _H_aus       _h_ouse
  _c_ornu     _c_or       _H_orn       _h_orn
  _c_annabis  _c_hanvre   _H_anf       _h_emp
  _c_arpo        --       _H_erbst     _h_arvest
  _c_alx         --       _H_iel       _h_eel
  _c_utis        --       _H_aut       _h_ide, &c.

This connection between _c_ (or _k_) and _h_ appears in other
cases. A primitive English word ending in a guttural (_g_ or _k_)
often produces derivatives in which the guttural is softened into
_tch_, as in:--

  ma_k_e     ma_tch_
  wa_k_e     wa_tch_
  ba_k_e     ba_tch_
  fla_k_e    fli_tch_
  wrec_k_    wre_tch_
  di_g_      di_tch_
  stic_k_    sti_tch_
  croo_k_    cru_tch_, &c.

Some of our English pronouns have this ending (_ch_), where it is a
contraction of the word ‘like.’ Thus:--

               Scottish.       Saxon.      English.

  who-like     whilk           hwlyc       whi_ch_
  all-like     ilk             ælc         ea_ch_
  so-like      solch (Germ.)   swylc       su_ch_, &c.

Another phenomenon of a certain class of words is the use of
an initial _s_, to give them an intensive meaning. This may be
observed in the following cases:--

  knap     snap
  lash     slash
  mash     smash
  plash    splash
  quash    squash
  deep     steep
  nip      snip
  rip      strip
  din      stun
  pike     spike
  lack     slack
  lain     slain
  lay      slay
  melt     smelt
  meet     smite
  reach    stretch
  well     swell
  wipe     sweep
  light    slight
  pout     spout
  hoot     shout
  rub      scrub
  tumble   stumble
  cut      scud

A large class of English words beginning with _s_ followed by a
consonant are derived from French, where they are spelled with an
_e_ or _es_ initial; as:--

   French.       English.

  écarlate      scarlet
  échafaud      scaffold
  échantillon   scantling
  écharfe       scarf
  espace        space
  étrange       strange
  escadron      squadron
  esclave       slave
  étage         stage
  état          state
  étendard      standard
  espèce        species
  espion        spy
  épinard       spinach
  épine         spine
  esprit        spirit
  écrivain      scrivener
  échorcher     scorch
  école         school
  éponge        sponge
  époux         spouse
  estomac       stomach
  étroit        strait

According to some French philologists, when the _s_ in any of these
French words is pronounced, it is a sign that the word is of later

It may be observed of the letter _h_ (initial) that it is never
mute in Germanic words, and that whenever it is mute in English,
the word is of French derivation.

Thus we have:--

   French (mute).

  Honneur    _h_onour
  Héritier   _h_eir
  Honnête    _h_onest
  Heure      _h_our
  Humeur     _h_umour

   German (aspirate).

  hart       _h_ard
  Herz       _h_eart
  Heide      _h_eath
  Hitze      _h_eat
  Hoffnung   _h_ope, &c.

The _h_ initial was prefixed to many Saxon words where it has now
disappeared from the English. This was chiefly before the liquids
_l_, _n_, and _r_.

   Saxon.      English.

  _H_laf       loaf
  _H_laford    lord
  _H_rafn      raven
  _H_lædl      ladle
  _H_leopan    leap
  _H_lædan     lead
  _H_necca     neck
  _H_nægan     neigh
  _H_nut       nut
  _H_lud       loud
  _H_ring      ring
  _H_losian    lose, &c.

The German _z_ initial often corresponds with the English _t_; as:--

  German.    English.

  zahlen     _t_ell
  zahm       _t_ame
  Zahn       _t_ooth
  zehn       _t_en
  zerren     _t_ear
  Zinn       _t_in
  Zimmer     _t_imber
  Zeit       _t_ide
  zu         _t_o
  Zoll       _t_oll
  Zunge      _t_ongue
  Zug        _t_ug
  Zweig      _t_wig
  Zwilling   _t_win
  zwischen   (be)_t_ween
  zwölf      _t_welve, &c.

The German _t_ initial corresponds with the English _d_; as:--

   German.      English.

  _T_ag        _d_ay
  _T_ändeln    _d_andle
  _T_anz       _d_ance
  _T_aub       _d_eaf
  _T_aube      _d_ove
  _T_auch      _d_uck
  _T_eich      _d_ough
  _T_eufel     _d_evil
  _T_hal       _d_ale
  _T_hat       _d_eed
  _T_hau       _d_ew
  _T_heil      _d_eal
  _T_hier      _d_eer
  _T_hun       _d_o, &c.

Some are puzzled when to spell the ending ‘ledge’ and when ‘lege.’
The following rule may be easily remembered:--Monosyllables and the
word ‘acknowle_d_ge’ are spelled with a _d_; therefore ‘le_d_ge,’
‘fle_d_ge,’ ‘ple_d_ge,’ ‘se_d_ge,’ ‘sle_d_ge,’ and ‘acknowle_d_ge’
retain that letter; whereas ‘sacrilege,’ ‘privilege,’ ‘allege,’ and
‘college’ must reject it.

Some years ago, there was a sharp controversy concerning the
spelling of the word--whether it should be ‘_rein_-deer’ or
‘_rain_-deer.’ The dictionaries differed, many even giving both
forms. It was found in Johnson ‘r_a_in-deer,’ which of course
settled the dispute. In spite of this decision, there is no doubt
that the word is generally spelled ‘rein-deer.’ The Saxon form was
‘hr_a_na-deor,’ i.e. ‘the running animal.’

Some lament that we have adopted the French form of the word
‘programme.’ They say that by analogy it ought to be written
‘program.’ We have ‘anagram,’ ‘diagram,’ ‘epigram,’ &c.; and why
not ‘program?’ But the former is now the established spelling; and,
till some daring innovator adopt the new form, and his example be
generally followed, we must be content to use the old one.

A few years ago, a new word was wanted to express ‘a message sent
by the telegraph;’ various forms were suggested, but at last the
word ‘telegram’ was adopted. This was another argument in favour of

The verb ‘to repair,’ in the sense of ‘to make better’ or ‘to
improve,’ is from the Latin ‘reparare,’ through the French
‘réparer;’ but when it means ‘to go back home’ it is from the Latin
‘repatriare,’ to return to your country.

The second syllable in ‘impair’ is in no way connected with the
above. ‘Impair’ is from the French ‘_empirer_,’ ‘to make worse.’



In the periodical and light literature of the day, we frequently
meet with forms of language which have been expressively called
‘slipshod English.’ These are of various kinds--uncertain
reference, superfluous words, incompatible terms, ungrammatical
forms, &c. &c.

Of the first class may be quoted the tailor’s advertisement, in
which it was stated that ‘Gentlemen’s materials are made up,
and waited on at their own houses,’ where there is a glorious
uncertainty as to who or what may be waited on.

The following is of the same nature:--In an examination in the
House of Commons, in 1809, a member said that ‘the witness had
been ordered to withdraw from the bar, in consequence of being
intoxicated by the motion of an honourable member.’ The word
‘intoxicated’ was here, perhaps, the right word; but it was
certainly not in the right place.

A word is often written which has no function to perform in the
sentence, and therefore no business on the paper. These are
superfluous words; they occupy space, but, instead of assisting,
they rather clog the sense of the passage. The often-used
expression, ‘final completion,’ is a case in point. Every
‘completion’ is ‘final;’ the idea of ‘final’ is involved in the
word ‘completion,’ and therefore this is a wrong expression.

Another of these superabundant forms is where we find ‘universal’
and ‘all’ brought into the same construction. A man is sometimes
said to be ‘universally’ beloved by ‘all’ his friends. Here either
‘universally’ or ‘all’ should be taken out. If the love for him is
‘universal,’ of course ‘all’ love him; and the converse is equally

Sometimes words are found together which contradict each other. Of
this class of faults we may quote the not unfrequent form ‘further
backwards.’ ‘Further’ means more in advance, and ‘backwards’ has a
directly contrary meaning. It is impossible to go ‘further’ and,
at the same time, ‘backwards,’ and therefore the two words should
never be used together.

‘Either’ and ‘neither’ cannot be properly applied to more than
two persons or things. Speaking of three or four people, it is
incorrect to say that ‘neither’ of them is clever, though we may
say that ‘none,’ or ‘no one,’ of them is clever. Nor would it be
good grammar to say, ‘either of the six children may go;’ we must
here say ‘any one.’

‘_All of them._’ This is a form which some critics have attacked,
and not without reason. They say that ‘_of_’ here means ‘out of;’
that it corresponds exactly with the Latin preposition _e_, or
_ex_, and that therefore the expression must be incorrect. We do
not take ‘all of them,’ but we take ‘them all.’ We may correctly
say one, two, three, &c., or most of them, but when there is
question of _all_, no preposition should be used.

‘_Equanimity of mind._’ As equanimity means evenness of mind, why
should ‘of mind’ be repeated? ‘Anxiety of mind’ is, of course, open
to the same objection.

‘_Incorrect orthography._’ The fault in this very common expression
arises from the idea that ‘orthography’ means merely spelling
(good or bad), whereas the true meaning of the word is ‘_correct_
spelling.’ Now, spelling cannot be correct and at the same time
incorrect, and therefore the two terms are incompatible. We may say
‘incorrect spelling,’ but we must not say ‘incorrect orthography.’

‘_A confirmed invalid._’ What is this? one who is strengthened
in his weakness? There is certainly here a contradiction, for no
weakness can be strong.

‘_Old news_’ is another contradictory form, where the terms are
incompatible with each other. It may be placed in the same class
with ‘enjoying bad health.’

It is inaccurate to say that a man’s ‘_defects are improved_.’ A
defect means the want of some good quality, and to ‘improve’ means
‘to make better.’ Wants may be ‘decreased’ or ‘supplied,’ but they
cannot be made better; and, therefore, the two terms should not be
used together.

It is a common error to use ‘quantity’ for ‘number.’ The former can
only be said of a collection or mass. A ‘quantity’ of meat or a
‘quantity’ of milk is good English, but not a quantity of pens or
books, &c. To separate individual objects we must apply ‘number,’
but to a collected mass ‘quantity.’ We may say a ‘quantity’ of
wood, but it must be a ‘number’ of faggots.

In many cases the wrong preposition is used; and, indeed, there
are few writers or speakers who are invariably correct in this
respect. The very common fault, ‘different to,’ we need hardly stop
to inquire into, but we often find equally wrong forms which pass
unnoticed. Occasionally we meet with ‘to disagree _from_,’ though
in general the form used is ‘to disagree _with_.’ Here the ‘dis’
in ‘disagree’ and the preposition ‘with’ seem to pull two ways.
Which, then, is right--to disagree _from_ or _with_? The proper
phrase is to ‘assent _to_’ and to ‘dissent _from_;’ and if the
latter is correct, why not also ‘to disagree _from_?’

As it is admitted that ‘different _to_’ is wrong, on the same
principle, ‘averse _to_’ must be wrong. No one can go two ways at
once. The _a_ in ‘averse’ certainly means ‘from;’ and therefore the
word should be followed by ‘_from_,’ and not ‘_to_.’ The first is
already adopted by many good writers.

The conjunction ‘than’ should not be used except after a
comparative adjective. ‘Soon_er_ than;’ ‘better than;’ ‘rather
than,’ &c., are correct; but ‘scarcely had he uttered these words
_than_,’ is bad English. ‘Hardly had he attained his majority
_than_’ is equally wrong. For ‘_than_’ we should here use ‘_when_.’
‘But’ should not be used for ‘than,’ as, ‘no sooner had he finished
his work _but_.’

Another common mistake is to use ‘except’ for ‘unless.’ The former
is a preposition, and must be followed not by a proposition, but by
a noun or pronoun. It is bad grammar to say ‘no one should aspire
to this situation, _except_ he is competent to fulfil its duties.’
(Here, we should read ‘unless’ for ‘except.’)

‘Like’ is also frequently confounded with ‘as.’ The former is a
preposition, and should not be used as a conjunction. ‘Do you write
_like_ I do?’ is wrong. It should be ‘_as_ (not _like_) I do.’

‘Notwithstanding he thought so,’ is bad English. We should here use
‘although.’ ‘Notwithstanding’ is a preposition, and is followed by
its object. We say correctly, ‘notwithstanding his objections,’ but
not properly, ‘notwithstanding he objected.’

‘But’ is often redundant after the word ‘doubt.’ We continually
meet with ‘I have no doubt _but_ that,’ &c. This is a wrong form:
the ‘but’ should be omitted.

As an example of a loose sentence; i.e. where the connection of the
parts is not sufficiently clear, the following advertisement of a
hair-dresser may be quoted:--

‘Seven lessons in hair-dressing may be had for one guinea, which
(?) _being imparted on a system_ entirely new, will enable any one
_so instructed_ to give the most complete satisfaction!’

The Anglo-Saxon ‘tíd’ meant ‘time’ (compare the German ‘Zeit’);
whence to ‘betide’ means to happen in time. The ‘tide’ is the
_time_ at which the water rises and falls. ‘Tidy,’ also, in old
English, signified properly ‘timely.’

In old English, we meet with the form ‘ton,’ which is for ‘the
one;’ and this may probably account for ‘t’other,’ or ‘the
t’other,’ which is, in fact, a contraction of ‘that other.’ But
‘t’other’ is now accounted a vulgarism.

There is some difference of practice in the use of the article (a,
an). The rule is, that ‘an’ must be used before a vowel, or _h_
mute. This is, in general, a good rule; but there is one vowel,
which must be sometimes considered an exception, viz. ‘_u_.’ It is
right to say ‘an apple,’ ‘an evil,’ ‘an idler,’ and ‘an orange;’
but before _u_ we must pause; for here there is a double practice.
Now, this vowel has two sounds; open, as in ‘_u_nion;’ and close,
as in ‘_u_gly.’ Before the long sound, we should use the article
‘a;’ as ‘a unit,’ ‘a union,’ ‘a uniform,’ &c. But before the short
sound of ‘u,’ the article ‘an’ should be used; as ‘an uncle,’
‘an ugly object,’ &c. Many good writers, however, use ‘an’ even
before a long _u_. We often meet with ‘_an_ united family,’ ‘_an_
universal practice,’ &c. The question is here one of harmony;
and the best practice seems to be, to adopt the softer sound. No
one ever thinks of saying or writing ‘_an_ youth,’ or ‘_an_ yew
tree;’ and yet the sound in ‘_an_ uniform,’ or ‘_an_ universe,’ is
precisely the same, and of course equally harsh.

Another case belonging to this question is the use of the article
in the frequently-seen expression ‘_such an one_.’ This form is
disagreeably harsh and unmusical. We might as well say: ‘such _an_
woman,’ or ‘such _an_ wonder.’ It is true there are authorities for
both these forms--‘such a one,’ and ‘such an one;’ but in a case of
this sort, we had better adopt the more harmonious form; good taste
and a delicate ear will direct us to ‘such a one,’ rather than
‘such _an_ one.’

It has been remarked that there is a strong tendency in English to
get rid of inflections. Many of these were found in old English
which have now fallen off. The old infinitive-ending _en_ is now
altogether gone, though some adjectives in _en_ still remain; viz.
those which denote material, such as ‘golden,’ ‘earthen,’ ‘oaten,’
&c. We had at one time ‘rosen,’ ‘silvern,’ ‘tinnen,’ ‘boxen,’ and
many others. These are now gone; and there seems to be a prevalent
disposition to cut off the endings of those which remain. Instead
of ‘a golden watch,’ we now say ‘a gold watch,’ using the noun
for the adjective. In the same way, we have ‘earthworks’ for
‘earthen works;’ though we still keep ‘earthenware.’ Many of these
adjectives in _en_ still hold their ground, though most of those
which are retained have lost a part of their sense. ‘Brazen’ has
now only a secondary meaning; and stands for ‘bold’ or ‘impudent.’
In a concrete sense, the noun is used instead of the adjective. We
say a ‘brazen face,’ for an ‘impudent face;’ but ‘a brass knob,’
or ‘a brass candlestick.’ Again: we have ‘a golden rule,’ in a
secondary; but a ‘gold’ ring in a primary sense.

The word ‘pigmy’--derived from the Greek πυγμὴ, the fist--was first
spelled ‘p_y_gmy.’ It meant one whose stature was no higher than
from the elbow to the fist. The change from _y_ to _i_ was probably
caused by the dislike of the printers to _y_ in the middle of a
word. But it has here as good a right to its place as the _y_ in
‘h_y_mn,’ or ‘t_y_pe.’ It is, however, gone; and we must submit.

Hundreds of words might be cited which have been brought into their
present forms by the influence of corruption. The now generally
received explanation of ‘Rotten Row’ is, that it is a corruption of
‘Route du Roi,’ originally the private road used by King William
III. when going from Piccadilly to Kensington. The old form
‘diamant’ was preferable to the more modern ‘diamond,’ because it
told its story more clearly. It was an inversion of ‘adamant,’ the
untameable, or invincible, so called because it is the hardest of
stones, and cannot be cut except by one of its own species.

The modern spelling of the word ‘height’ is a corruption. We have
‘wid_th_,’ from ‘wide;’ ‘leng_th_,’ from ‘long;’ and ‘bread_th_,’
from ‘broad.’ Why, then, not ‘highth,’ from ‘high?’ In the writings
of the seventeenth century we meet with various spellings of this
word. It is found ‘highth’ in the first edition of ‘Paradise Lost;’
and also ‘heigth’ and ‘heygth.’ Now the inversion of _ht_ for _th_
has corrupted it into ‘heig_ht_;’ and so, for the present, it will
probably remain. The _d_ in ‘admiral’ appears to be a corruption.
All our dictionaries give the derivation of this word from the
Arabic ‘amir,’ or ‘emir,’ a lord, or commander. Neither the French
‘amiral,’ nor the Italian ‘ammiraglio,’ has the _d_. Milton writes
the word ‘ammiral:’

                      the tallest pine
      Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
      Of some great _ammiral_,--

though in this passage, the word means a ship, and not its
commander. Mr. Wedgewood says that, in many cases in Arabic, the
article is placed after the noun; and that the _ad_ initial is a
mere corruption of the first syllable of ‘amir’ or ‘emir.’

It was a fanciful etymology which gave us the word ‘Tartar.’ The
incorrect spelling ‘Tartars’ for ‘Tatars’ occurs at the same time
with the appearance of the Mongols in Europe, in the thirteenth
century; and was probably introduced by the superstitious monks
and writers who, struck with the seeming analogy between ‘Tatar’
and Tartarus (the hell of the ancients), believed that these
ferocious invaders had come from the infernal regions.

We are told by some writers that there are between 2,000 and 3,000
words in the English language, for which there is no recognised
standard of spelling. Though this number is probably exaggerated,
there are, no doubt, many in this condition; and it naturally
becomes a question which of two forms is to be preferred. Here,
we should be at least consistent; we should hold to the one, and
altogether reject the other.

The two forms, ‘chemist’ and ‘chymist’ arose from the word having
a disputed derivation; but the first is now received as correct.
Of course, its derivatives will therefore be spelled ‘chemical,’
‘chemistry,’ &c.

There was, at one time, a confusion between ‘choir’ and ‘quire.’
The second word has no connection, except in sound, with the first,
which is from the Latin ‘chorus,’ through the French ‘chœur.’
As ‘quire,’ in the sense of a number singing together, is now
obsolete, so is ‘quirister,’ which must be spelled ‘chorister.’

There are two forms--‘coit,’ and ‘quoit.’ The derivation of
this word is somewhat obscure; but if, as some suggest, it is
connected with _cut_, the form ‘coit’ is preferable to the other.
Another argument in favour of this form is that the word is always
pronounced as if beginning with a _c_ hard, or _k_; and not as if
with _qu_.

There has been a rather sharp controversy lately concerning the two
forms ‘diocess’ and ‘diocese.’ The ‘Times’ adopts ‘diocess.’ Dr.
Latham says under the word, ‘diocese, frequently but improperly,
diocess.’ Webster says, ‘the orthography of “diocess” is opposed to
the derivation, and is against the best English usage.’ There is
little doubt that ‘diocess’ is the older, and ‘diocese’ the newer
form of the word: and there is also little doubt, in spite of the
‘Times,’ that ‘diocese’ is the proper form.

Between ‘intire’ and ‘entire’ there is still a divided practice.
The word is a contraction of the Latin ‘integer,’ which will
account for the initial _i_. But it comes to us directly from the
French ‘entier.’ So that ‘entire’ will probably supplant ‘intire,’
though we still have ‘Barclay and Co.’s _intire_.’

There are two forms of the word--‘referrible,’ and ‘referable.’
These are both in common use, and both are given in the
dictionaries; but the second, ‘referable,’ is the proper form.
There was no Latin adjective ‘referibilis.’ Our word is a later
formation, where _a_ in such cases is always used rather than _i_;
and, therefore, it is better spelled ‘referable.’ Besides, this
form is in analogy with ‘preferable,’ ‘inferable,’ &c.

Some still write ‘sirname’ incorrectly for ‘surname,’ probably from
an idea that the word means sire-name, or a name received from a
sire (father). But its real meaning is an added name; one name
added _to_ another. It is from the French ‘surnom,’ and should be
always spelled ‘surname.’

Between a ‘serjeant’-at-law, and a military ‘sergeant’ there is
this difference: that the first must be written with a _j_, and the
second with a _g_. The word is derived from the Latin ‘serviens,’
and means, in both cases, one who serves; but the words are spelled
somewhat differently, to make a distinction in their application.

A difference should be made between ‘story’ and ‘storey.’ The first
means an account of facts, and is a contraction of ‘history.’ It
is a history on a small scale. But ‘storey’ is a contraction of
‘stagery,’ and means the landing in a house; as in ‘first storey,’
‘second storey,’ &c. Of course, the plural form of the first word
should be ‘stories,’ and of the second, ‘storeys.’



_Abominable._ This word is from the Latin verb ‘abominor,’ which
again is from _ab_ and _omen_. The word involves the idea of what
is in a religious sense profane and detestable; in fine, of evil
omen. Milton always uses it in reference to devilish, profane or
idolatrous objects. It was once thought that the true etymology of
‘abominable’ was from _ab_ (from), and _homo_ (a man); and that its
proper meaning was _repugnant to human nature_. This, though not
the right derivation, may account for the word being still often
used in that sense.

_Absurd_, which has the sense of ‘foolish,’ ‘inconsistent,’ &c., is
from the Latin ‘absurdus,’ compounded of ‘ab’ (from), and ‘surdus’
(deaf). An ‘absurd’ answer is one you would probably get ‘from a
deaf’ man; i.e. one wholly irrelevant to the question.

_Academy._ This word owes its origin to the name of a grove near
Athens, ἀκαδημία, where Plato and other philosophers used to give
lectures to their followers. Hence this name has been frequently
given to institutions for instruction.

_Ajar._ The Anglo-Saxon ‘cerre’ is a turn; from ‘cerran,’ to turn;
hence a door is said to be ‘ajar,’ when it is on the turn. From the
same root we have to _churn_ milk; i.e. to _turn_ it about. Also
a _char_-woman--one who does a ‘turn’ of work. Compare the German

_Archipelago._ This name was given by the modern Greeks to the
Ægean Sea. It is a corruption of ἁγιὸς πέλαγος (Hagios pelagos),
‘Holy Sea.’

_Ban_, to proclaim or denounce. The original meaning is connected
with ‘_ban_ner,’ a flag, or standard; in feudal times, the rallying
point to which retainers flocked to do battle for their seigneur.
The word is supposed to be connected with ‘bend,’ in the sense of
to make a sign. ‘Bandit,’ a proclaimed outlaw, is from the same
source, as also ‘Banns,’ i.e. a proclamation of marriage.

_Bankrupt._ The following circumstances gave rise to this word.
It was the custom in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries for
the Lombard merchants to expose their wares for sale in the
market-place, on _benches_. Whenever any one of their number
failed in his business, or could not pay his debts, all the other
merchants set upon him, drove him from the market, and _broke_ his
_bench_ to pieces. ‘Banco rotto’ is the Italian for bench-broken.
Hence came the word, which passed into French in the form
‘_banqueroute_;’ and into English as ‘_bankrupt_.’

_Barley-sugar._ Has nothing whatever to do with the grain
‘_barley_.’ The first part of the word is here an inversion--and at
the same time a corruption of the French brûlé (burnt). The whole
word was originally ‘sucre brûlé’ (burnt sugar), and it is still
sometimes called ‘sugar-barley.’

_Birmingham._ The name of an Anglo-Saxon family was often formed
by adding _ing_ to that of its founder; _ing_ meaning ‘son of,’ or
‘descended from.’ The estate or residence was called the ‘_ham_,’
or home; and the name was formed by adding this syllable _ham_, to
the family name. Thus, the family of a Saxon leader named ‘Beorm’
possessed a residence in Mercia, to which they gave the name of
‘Beorm-ing-ham,’ or the home of the sons of Beorm; now corrupted
into ‘Birmingham.’ Many places in England still retain the names
originally given them by Anglo-Saxon families; as ‘Nottingham,’
‘Walsingham,’ &c.

_Blackguard_ was a name first given to the lowest menials engaged
in the dirty work of a kitchen or household, as scullion, link-boy,
coal-carrier, &c. It was afterwards applied to any loose, idle

_Book._ In the same way as the Latin _liber_ (the bark of a tree),
was afterwards used in the sense of a book, because it was a
material used for writing on; so our word _book_ comes from the
Saxon ‘boc’ (a beech tree). In a rude, uncivilised age, it was the
custom to form alphabetical letters with the pliable twigs of the
beech. To this day, the German for ‘to spell’ is ‘buchstabiren’
(from ‘Buch’ (beech), and ‘stab’ (a staff or twig)); i.e. to put
the beech-staves properly together.

_Booty._ The Anglo-Saxon ‘bet’ meant ‘better’; and ‘betan’ was to
amend or make better. Thus a ‘booty’ would be that which betters
us; ‘bootless’ is ‘without effect or improvement,’ and ‘so much to
boot,’ is so much to our advantage.

_Burglar._ This is from the Low Latin ‘burgilatro,’ a house-robber;
one who breaks into a house with a felonious intent. The old French
‘lerre’ is a contraction of the Latin ‘latro,’ a robber.

_Cabal._ The usually received etymology of this word is that it
is formed of the initials of the names of the five ministers of
Charles II. who succeeded to the government of this country
after the banishment of Lord Clarendon--_C_lifford, _A_shley,
_B_uckingham, _A_rlington, and _L_auderdale. But Mr. Wedgewood
suggests that it comes from ‘Cabala,’ or the mysterious tradition
delivered to Moses with the Law, on Mount Sinai, and handed down
by the Jews from father to son. ‘Hence,’ he says, ‘Cabal came to
signify a secret machination or plotting.’ Lord Macaulay favours
the first explanation.

_Caitiff._ This English word presents us with a curious lesson. It
is, in fact, only another form of ‘captive,’ though it has come to
signify a wretch capable of perpetrating the darkest crimes. The
Latin ‘captivus,’ a prisoner, is the source of the modern Italian
‘cattivo,’ which has the general sense of ‘bad;’ and the French
‘chétif,’ which signifies ‘mean,’ ‘pitiful,’ or ‘insignificant,’
is another form of the same word. All these varieties point to the
same conclusion, viz. the moral degradation naturally produced in
the human mind by captivity.

_Candidate._ In ancient Rome it was the custom for those who sued
for offices of state, to be dressed in white robes. Hence came
the word ‘candidate,’ which is derived from the Latin ‘candidus’
(white); and which signifies literally--‘dressed in white.’

_Carat_ is from the Arabic ‘kaura,’ a bean, which varies very
little in weight. It was introduced into India as a standard weight
for diamonds. The Arabic words are _goort_, _girat_, and _gurat_;
corrupted into ‘_carat_.’

_Cardinal._ Certain dignitaries of the Church of Rome are called
‘cardinals.’ This word is derived from the Latin ‘cardo,’ a hinge.
One of the favourite comparisons by which the Church of Rome sought
to set herself up above all the other churches of Christendom, was
that it was the _hinge_ upon which all the rest of the church, as
the door, turned, or depended. Hence the higher clergy were called
cardinals, as being closely connected with the Pope, who was the
‘_cardo_,’ or hinge of them all. Certain virtues are also called
‘cardinal,’ as being those upon which all other virtues turn.

_Caricature._ This is literally an overloaded or over-charged
representation. It is derived from the Italian ‘_caricare_,’ to
load. In a caricature, a resemblance is retained; but the details
are exaggerated.

_Carnival_ is from the Latin ‘caro’ (flesh), and ‘vale’ (farewell).
It signifies literally ‘farewell to flesh;’ and is applied to the
holiday held in Roman Catholic countries the week before Lent. It
may be considered as a feast before a fast.

_Caudle._ The derivation of this word is yet undecided. Latham
gives it as a corruption of ‘cordial;’ while Wedgewood derives it
from the French ‘chaudeau’ (from _chaud_, hot), a warm comforting
drink for the sick.

_Chancel._ This means the part of a church enclosed or railed off
from the body of the building by lattice-work (Latin, _cancelli_).
Chancellors were originally law officers who stood at the railings
(ad cancellos) in a court of justice, and received the petitions
of the suitors. The verb ‘to cancel’ is from the same source. To
‘cancel’ a name is to efface it by drawing a pen across it in
diagonal lines, so as to make lattice-work over it.

_Cheat._ From the Latin verb ‘cadĕre,’ to fall, came the old French
‘eschoir,’ and hence ‘escheats.’ This is a law-term signifying
lands which _fall_ to the lord by forfeiture, or by the death of
a tenant. The king’s ‘escheators’ were officers appointed to look
after the king’s ‘escheats;’ and as they had many opportunities of
practising fraud, and were much complained of on that score, the
term escheator (or cheater) came to signify any fraudulent person.
This is the origin of the present meaning of the verb ‘to cheat.’

_Church._ This word, though consisting of only one syllable, has in
it the elements of two roots. It is of Greek origin, and signifies
literally ‘the Lord’s House.’ Κύριος (Kyrios) is the Greek for
‘Lord;’ and οἶκος (oikos) means, in that language, ‘house,’ or
‘dwelling.’ Putting these two roots together we get ‘_Kyri-oik_.’
This, by a natural law would contract into ‘kyrik.’ In Scotch we
find ‘kirk,’ and in German ‘Kirche.’ In English the guttural is
softened, and the word appears as ‘_church_.’

_Comedy._ This is derived, according to Aristotle, from κώμη
(komē), a village; and ᾠδὴ (odē), a song. It was at first a song
of joy of the villagers at the gathering in of the harvest--a
sort of harvest-home. This was a lighter and gayer song, and did
not partake of the more solemn, and at first, religious tone of
the tragedy. Others derive comedy from κῶμος, and ᾠδή, ‘a song of

_Companion._ Two derivations are given of this word. 1. From the
French ‘campagne,’ which is from the Latin ‘cum,’ and ‘pagus,’ a
village, or district. By this explanation it would mean one of
those who belonged to the same district. 2. From the Low Latin
‘companium,’ an association; formed from ‘cum’ (with), and ‘panis’
(bread). This conveys the meaning of bread-sharer. Mr. Wedgewood
favours the second explanation.

_Comrade._ There is no doubt that this word, which is in French
‘camarade,’ is derived from the Italian ‘camera,’ afterwards in
French ‘chambre,’ and that it was first applied to those who lived
together in the same room (chambre).

_Cordwainer._ During the Moorish government of southern Spain, the
city of Cordŏva became celebrated for the manufacture of leather.
Hence, the French ‘cordovan’ meant originally the leather of
Cordova. Hence, also, the English ‘cordwainer,’ and the French
‘cordovanier’ (now contracted into ‘cordonnier,’) a worker in

_Counterpane._ The middle-age Latin ‘culcita’ meant a mattrass.
This in French was ‘coulte,’ and in English became ‘quilt.’
‘Culcita puncta’ meant a quilt punctured with stitches, so as to
form a pattern. This, in French, became ‘coulte-pointe;’ afterwards
converted into ‘conte-pointe,’ and ‘contre-pointe.’ Hence at length
came the English ‘counter-pane.’

_Country Dance._ Some think that this really means a dance of
country people. But the probable derivation is the French _contre_,
‘over against,’ or ‘opposite to,’ which has been corrupted into
‘country;’ and the whole word means a dance in which the partners
stand opposite to (contre) each other.

_Curmudgeon._ It was suggested by Menage that this word is from
the French ‘cœur,’ and ‘méchant,’ wicked heart. But the more
probable derivation is from ‘corn-mudgin.’ Corn-mudgins were
dealers in corn, who were unpopular, as it was thought that
they hoarded, and kept up the price of corn, to serve their own
interests. Hence the word came to signify an avaricious monopolist.

_Delirious_ comes from the Latin compound ‘de’ (from), and ‘lira’
(a furrow, or ridge). The word is a metaphor, taken from those who
deviate from the straight line, or furrow, in ploughing. It is now
applied to those who rove in mind, or are disordered in intellect.

_Ecstasy._ This word has the meaning of violent excitement. It is
now generally used in the sense of some pleasurable feeling, though
it was formerly much more extended in signification. It is derived
from the Greek ἐκ (out), and στάσις (a standing); i.e. literally
‘a standing out.’ It is curious that in the Saxon part of our
language, there is a corresponding phrase which exactly explains
this word; viz. ‘_to be beside oneself_.’ We commonly say, ‘He was
beside himself with joy.’ In a state of ‘ecstasy,’ the soul may be
said to leap out, as it were, and stand forth from the body.

_Fanatic_ is from the Latin ‘fanum,’ a temple. This adjective
was at first applied to people affected by a strong religious
feeling--possessed by an incontrollable enthusiasm.

_Favour._ Ladies in their most brilliant attire were generally
spectators of the tournaments of the Middle Ages. They were,
severally, interested in the knights, and encouraged them, by
looks, tokens, or gestures, to do their duty manfully. They
frequently threw them a portion of their dress, such as a sleeve,
mantle, or bow of ribbons, called a _favour_, which the knight wore
on his armour, and forfeited if he was vanquished. From this custom
has descended, to our days, the fashion of distributing bows of
ribbon, still called _favours_, to the guests and attendants at a

_Faubourg._ This is considered by French philologists, to be a
corruption of ‘_forsbourg_.’ The old French ‘fors’ (now _hors_),
is from the Latin ‘foras,’ ‘outside,’ or ‘abroad.’ Faubourg (the
present orthography) would naturally lead to the idea that it meant
‘false town,’ or ‘unreal town:’ whereas it means and literally
corresponds with the English ‘suburb,’ i.e. a district or place
situated ‘foras burgi,’ outside the town.

_Feud._ According to M. Guizot, the word ‘feodum’ appears for the
first time in a charter of Charles Le Gros, 884. The etymology is
uncertain; but two suggestions have been made, either of which is
probable. Some think the word is connected with the Latin ‘fides,’
faith, and means ‘land given,’ for which the holder was bound in
_fidelity_ to his suzerain lord. According to others, ‘feod’ is of
Germanic origin; and is derived from ‘fe’ (or fee)--still used in
English in the sense of a recompense--and ‘od’ an old Germanic root
now obsolete, meaning ‘goods,’ or ‘property.’ Thus, ‘feod’ would
mean reward-land. M. Guizot favours the second explanation.

_Foolscap._ By a statute of Queen Anne certain duties were imposed
on all paper imported from abroad. Among the various sorts of paper
herein mentioned is the Genoa ‘foolscap.’ This word is a corruption
of the Italian ‘foglio capo,’ a chief, or full-sized, sheet of
paper. Foglio (leaf), is from the Latin ‘folium,’ which appears in
French as ‘feuille.’

_Garment_ is a contraction of the French ‘garnement,’ from the
verb ‘garnir,’ to decorate or garnish. It is now restricted to the
meaning of ‘garnishing’ or decorating the body by dress.

_Gew-gaw._ The derivation of this word still remains doubtful,
though many suggestions have been made of its origin. May it not be
from the French ‘jou-jou,’ a plaything?

_Gooseberry._ Dr. Johnson, whose etymologies are not always to be
depended on, especially those of Saxon words, explains the word
‘gooseberry’--‘a fruit eaten as a sauce for goose.’ But it is, in
truth, a corruption of the German ‘krausbeere,’ or ‘krautelbeere,’
from ‘kraus’ or ‘gorse,’ ‘crisp;’ and the fruit is so called from
the upright hairs with which it is covered. So that ‘gooseberry,’
is really, a corruption of ‘gorseberry.’ But what is gooseberry
_fool_? ‘Fool’ is here also a corruption--it is from the French
‘foulé,’ ‘mashed’ or ‘crushed,’ and the whole word means ‘crushed

_Gossip._ ‘Sib’ was an Anglo-Saxon word, meaning ‘relation,’
and the term ‘gossip’ was first applied to the relation between
godfathers and godmothers in baptism, so that a gossip (or
God-sib), meant a relation in God (i.e. in a religious sense). It
has now passed into the sense of a great chatterer or talker; but
the above explanation accounts for its origin.

_Hammercloth._ In the olden time, before there was any hotel
accommodation in England for travellers, it was the custom with
those going on a journey to fill a ‘hanaper’ (or hamper) with
provisions, and throw a cloth over it, to conceal its somewhat
homely appearance. This was placed in front of the carriage, and
served as a seat for the driver. Thus, from ‘hanaper-cloth,’ came

_Harbour._ The two roots of this compound word are the Anglo-Saxon
‘here,’ an army; and ‘beorgan,’ to protect. A harbour is then,
literally, a place to protect an army.

_Heir-loom._ From the Saxon ‘geloma,’ tools, utensils, or pieces
of furniture. These in law are called personal chattels, and when
they descended in inheritance from father to son, they were called

_Homage_ is derived from the French ‘homme,’ a man. The ceremony
of ‘homage’ was, in the Middle Ages, a solemn declaration of the
vassal that he would be the man (homme) of his future lord. He
knelt down; placed both his hands between those of his lord; with
his head bare, and without his arms; and then swore that he would
use his hands and his weapons, when they should be restored to him,
in his future lord’s service.

_Hurry._ ‘Here’ was the Anglo-Saxon for an army (compare the German
‘Heer’); and ‘herian’ was to act as an army, viz. to ravage,
despoil, and plunder a country. Hence come the English words
‘hurry,’ ‘harry,’ and ‘harrow.’

_Hustings_ is from the Saxon ‘Hus’ (a house) and ‘Ting’ (a
council). This was the name given to the municipal court of the
City of London, where probably the elections were originally
conducted. Now, the word signifies the booths where speeches are
made at an election.

_Jeopardy._ This is from the Middle-Age Latin; ‘jocus partitus’
(French, ‘jeu-parti’), i.e. a divided game, where the chances are
even--a choice of alternatives.

_Kickshaws_ is a corruption of the French ‘quelque chose;’
_something_ so disguised by cooking as scarcely to be recognised.

_Late_ is from the Anglo-Saxon ‘lætan;’ to let, or allow. ‘Lazy’ is
from the same root, as is also ‘loiter.’ He who ‘loiters’ must be

_Lout._ This comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb ‘lutian,’ to bow. It
was originally applied to a cringing menial, who was continually
_bowing_ before his master; and as in this case, the act was
probably performed in a clownish, ungraceful way, the word thus
came to signify an awkward, clumsy fellow.

_Menial._ This adjective is derived from the old French noun
‘mesnie’ (or meny), which, in the Middle Ages, meant the servants
or household of some noble or chieftain taken collectively. A
_menial_ occupation was, originally, one performed by some member
of the ‘mesnie.’ It is from this last that the English expression
‘a many’ is derived. It was at first ‘a mesnie,’ or a collective
number of servants.

_Meringue._ Shakspere says that ‘great events from trivial causes
spring.’ But we may sometimes reverse this saying, and say with
equal truth, that trivial effects spring from great causes. It may
appear strange that the French could not hit upon a more dignified
way of commemorating a victory than by giving its name to a then
newly invented cake, but such is the fact. The battle of Marengo
produced the ‘Meringue’!!

_Miscreant_, which is from the French mécreant (or mécroyant), was
first used in the times of the Crusades, and then signified simply
an unbeliever. But disbelief in Christianity being at that time
regarded as the worst of crimes, the word soon passed into the more
general sense of a wicked wretch.

_Mouchard._--In the latter part of the sixteenth century, when
the French Government was on the look-out for heretics, a certain
Antoine _Mouchy_, a doctor of the Sorbonne and canon of Noyon, made
himself notorious by his zeal against the Reformers. The secret
spies he employed in detecting the heretics were called, from
his name, _Mouchards_, a word which now signifies the basest and
meanest of betrayers.

_Mountebank._--This means a quack medicine vendor, so called from
the Italian ‘montare’ (to mount) and ‘banco’ (a bench). Literally,
one who mounts a bench, to boast of his infallible skill in curing

_Naught._ ‘Aught’ is a contraction of the Saxon ‘a wiht’ (or, a
whit), any creature or thing. ‘Naught’ is the negative of ‘aught,’
and means ‘not a whit.’ The adjective ‘naughty’ is now confined in
its application to the behaviour of children; but it was once much
more extensively used.

_Palace._ This term, which is now used in a general sense for
a king’s residence, was first applied to a dwelling of the
Roman Emperor Nero. One of the seven hills of Rome was called
‘Palatinus,’ from Pales, a pastoral deity whose festival was there
celebrated on April 21 as the birthday of Rome. Under Nero, all
the private houses on the ‘collis Palatinus’ were pulled down to
make room for the Emperor’s new residence. This house was called
‘Palatium,’ and it afterwards became the type of all the palaces of
the kings and emperors of Europe.

_Palfrey._--This is a contraction of the French ‘par le frein’
(by the bridle). It is a horse used on state occasions, and
distinguished from the war horse--a horse led by the bridle, ‘_mené
par le frein_.’

_Pamphlet._--It is supposed that this word is a contraction of the
French ‘par un filet.’ It means a small book, not bound, but held
together by a thread--‘_tenu par un filet_.’

_Pavilion_ is derived directly from the French ‘pavillon,’ where it
is used in the sense of a tent or flag. But the origin of the word
is the Latin ‘papilio,’ a butterfly. Tents or flags would be so
called, because of their flapping about as a butterfly.

_Person._ This word was originally a theatrical term, and properly
meant an actor. The theatres of the ancient Romans were built so
large as to contain between 30,000 and 40,000 people. Now it was
impossible for the actors to make themselves heard through so large
a space; and they therefore wore masks, inside of which, close to
the aperture for the mouth, was a certain mechanical contrivance,
which made the voice more sonorous, so that the actors’ words could
be heard in all parts of the theatre. The Latin for a mask is
‘persona,’ so called because the voice _sounded through it_. _Per_
is in Latin, ‘through;’ and _son_ is the root of the verb ‘sonare’
to sound. By a common figure of speech, the word meaning ‘mask’
(persona) was afterwards applied to its wearer; and thus ‘persona’
came to signify ‘actor.’ This was its original, theatrical meaning.
But, as all human beings are, in one sense, actors--as they all
have a part to play on the stage of life, the word ‘person’ was
afterwards used in a general sense to signify any one man or woman.
In one special case, it appears in the form ‘parson,’ to designate
the ‘chief person,’ or priest, of a parish. In this sense, however,
the word is now falling into disuse.

_Pet._ The French adjective ‘petit’ (small) is derived from the
Latin participle, ‘petitus,’ sought after. From this root came the
English word ‘pet.’ ‘My pet’ means literally, ‘my sought after or
desired one.’ ‘Petty’ is also from the French ‘petit;’ but it has
degenerated: and is now always used in a bad sense, as in a ‘petty

_Pert_ is nothing else than the old French ‘aperte,’ (from the
Latin apertus) open, public, without concealment. The sense has now
degenerated into ‘saucy’ or ‘impudent.’ ‘Malapert’ had that meaning
from the beginning; but this word is now seldom used. ‘Pert’ seems
to have taken its place.

_Poltroon._ The derivation of this word is still undecided; but
the following account of it has been offered. In the later ages
of the Roman empire, the ancient valour of the citizens had so
degenerated that, rather than fight, many actually cut off their
right thumbs, in order to disable themselves from using the pike.
The Latin for ‘thumb’ is ‘pollex’; and ‘truncus’ means, in that
language, ‘maimed’ or ‘mutilated.’ These two roots put together
give us ‘pol-troon’ from ‘_pol_lice _trun_cus,’ i.e. with the thumb
cut off. As this was done with a cowardly motive, the word very
naturally came to signify a coward, a meaning which it retains to
this day.

_Pontiff_ (Lat. pontifex). There are various etymologies of this
word. Varro derives it from ‘pons,’ a bridge, and ‘facĕre,’ to make
or build. He says that the pontiffs had built the ‘pons sublicius’
(over the Tiber); and afterwards restored it, that sacrifices might
be performed on each side of the river. It is now used only as a
title of the Pope of Rome.

_Porpoise._ This word is from the French porc (hog) and poisson
(fish); so called from its resemblance to a hog. Spenser spells the
word ‘porcpisces.’ It is singular that, in this case, the French
should have adopted the Teutonic word ‘marsouin’ (mereswine); while
in English it is known by its French name--‘porc-poisson.’

_Post._ The apparently contradictory meanings of this word may
give it a peculiar interest. In its original sense, it means
something _placed_; from the Latin participle ‘positum’; as, for
example, a pillar fixed in the street. But we also hear of _post_
haste, _post_ horses, &c., and, in these cases, the meaning
seems directly opposed to the etymology. When letters, parcels,
&c. were first transmitted from place to place, stations (or
posts) were placed at intervals from each other, and letters were
rapidly passed on by messengers from one station to the next, and
so on, across the whole country. This was called _post_ haste;
i.e. in such haste as was used when letters were sent in the
above-described way.

_Punch._ The well-known beverage called punch is said to be
derived from the Hindostani panch--five. It means a mixture of
five ingredients: 1. spirit, 2. water, 3. sugar, 4. acid, and 5.
essential oil of lemon.

_Puny._ This is an English form of the French puis-né,
or (de)puis-né (Latin, post natus), born since. It is in
contradistinction to the French aîné (ante-natus) elder or born
before; and now signifies weak, ill-conditioned in growth. A junior
judge is still, in legal phrase, a puisne judge.

_Quack._ The whole word is in German ‘qualksalber,’ of which
‘quack’ is a contraction. ‘To quack’ is to talk boastfully--to make
a great fuss; and ‘salber’ is from _salve_, something to _heal_;
so that quacksalber may be explained, one who talks noisily and
fussily about his healing medicines.

_Quandary._ This is a corruption of the French ‘qu’en dirai-(je)?’
‘what shall I say of it?’ It expresses that condition of doubt or
uncertainty in which such a question would be naturally asked.

_Ragoût._ This French noun, which may be now considered as
naturalised in English, is a contraction of the Italian ‘miro
gusto,’ ‘wonderful taste.’

_Raiment_ is derived from ‘to array,’ and is a contraction for

_Ransack._ This word is founded in Swedish, ‘ransacka,’ where it
means to search a house for stolen goods. It is compounded of the
O.N. ‘rann,’ a house, and Sw. ‘soka,’ to seek.

_Religion_ is from the Latin ‘_re_’ (back), and ‘_ligare_,’ ‘to
bind;’ literally, that which binds back, or restrains us from the
commission of sin.

_Right_ and _Wrong_. The first of these words, in a secondary
sense, has a meaning analogous to proceeding in a straight line,
the Latin ‘rectus,’ from which it is derived, having that meaning.
The French ‘droit’ is from ‘directus.’ Our word ‘wrong’ is only
another form of ‘wrung,’ i. e. ‘_twisted_’ (out of the right line).
It may be observed, by the way, that the French ‘tort’ (wrong)
is from the Latin ‘tortus,’ twisted; so that the same principle
operates in both cases.

_Romance._ A name given to certain European languages (especially
the Provençal), which grew out of the old Roman or Latin, The
Troubadours, or poets, who wrote in the Provençal language being
notorious for their exaggerated sentiment, the word has come to
mean a wildly imaginative fiction; and it is even sometimes used as
a softened expression for a falsehood.

_Salary._ This is from the Latin ‘salarium.’ According to Pliny, it
is derived from ‘sal’ (salt), that being the most necessary article
for the maintenance of life. In the reign of the Emperor Augustus
it comprised the provisions as well as the pay of the Roman
military officers. From ‘salary’ probably came the expression, ‘he
is not worth his _salt_,’ i.e. his pay, or wages.

_Sarcasm._--The root of this word is the Greek σάρξ (sarx) flesh,
from which comes σαρκάζω (sarcazo) ‘I tear flesh.’ The derivation
throws a strong light on its true meaning--a tearing of the flesh.
But it is now used only in a secondary sense.

_Saunter._ It is said that, in the time of the Crusades, many
foreign mendicants overran England. They professed to be on their
return from a pilgrimage to the ‘Sainte Terre:’ and the popular
voice gave these vagabonds the name of ‘saunterers.’

_Sedition_ is from the Latin ‘se’ (apart), and ‘itio,’ a going
(from ‘eo’ I go). Sedition, then, means ‘a going apart,’ i.e. a
departure from submission to the laws. It now implies a violent
opposition to government, and involves the idea of commotion and
disturbance of the peace.

_Seneschal._ This is a compound of the Latin ‘senex’ (old) and the
Gothic ‘scalco’ (a servant). The seneschal of a castle was, in the
Middle Ages, an _aged servant_, whose duty it was to keep the keys,
take care of the house, and superintend the feasts and domestic
ceremonies. ‘Seneschal’ means ‘aged servant,’ as ‘marshal’ (‘mara
scalco’) means, literally, ‘horse servant.’

_Sincere._ One suggestion concerning the etymology of this word
is, that it was compounded from the Latin ‘sine’ (without), and
‘cerâ’ (wax)--‘without wax.’ In this view, the term is referred to
a practice of the ancient sculptors, who, when they found a flaw in
the marble of which they were forming a statue, filled up the place
with wax, in order to conceal the defect. Those pieces of statuary
that had no flaws were, consequently, ‘sine cerâ’ (without wax);
and the word ‘sincere’ thus acquired its present meaning; viz.
perfect, whole, without flaw. Many etymologists, however, reject
this derivation, and the origin of the word is still considered as

_Simple._ Whether ‘sincere’ be or be not from ‘sine cerâ,’ it
is generally allowed that ‘simple’ is from the Latin ‘sine,’
and ‘plico,’ I fold; i.e. literally, ‘without fold.’ The Latin
‘simplex,’ ‘duplex,’ ‘triplex,’ &c. are in English, ‘sim_ple_,’
‘dou_ble_,’ ‘tri_ple_,’ &c.

_Soldier._ This English word comes directly from the French
‘soldat,’ which, again, is from the Latin ‘solidus,’ Italian
‘soldo,’ and French ‘solde,’ ‘sou’ (pay)--the name of a coin which
a man received as his pay for fighting. The word originally meant
one who performed military service, not in fulfilment of the feudal
obligation, but upon contract, and for stipulated pay.

_Somerset._ The corruption of a word often obscures its
derivation; as is the case here. This is originally from the
Italian ‘soprasalto,’ an over-leap. The French corrupted the word
into ‘sobresault,’ and the English to ‘somersault,’ and then to
‘somerset.’ But it should be always spelled ‘somersault.’ It
properly means a _leap_ in which the heels are thrown _over_ the

_Spouse._ The origin of this word may be traced to the Greek verb
σβέννυμι (sbennumi), ‘I pour out;’ which passed into Latin as
‘spondeo’ (sponsus). The Latin verb came to signify ‘to make a
contract’ or promise. In making contracts, it was a custom with
the Romans _to pour out_ libations to the gods. Hence, any one
who contracted an engagement (especially in the case of marriage)
was called ‘sponsus,’ i.e. ‘engaged,’ or ‘betrothed.’ The modern
Italians softened the word into ‘sposo,’ and the French transformed
it into ‘époux.’ Then it passed into English in the form of
‘spouse.’ Godfathers and godmothers are called ‘sponsors,’ for the
same reason; because they engage, or bind themselves, in certain
contingencies, to instruct a child in his religious duties.

_Stalwart_ is often written, in early English, ‘stal-ward.’ It is
from the Anglo-Saxon ‘stal-weorth,’ i.e. worth stealing, or taking.
The word is now used in the sense of strong-limbed, noble, manly in

_Stationer._ The word ‘statio’ meant, in the Middle Ages, ‘a
stall,’ or ‘shop,’ and was at last used for a shop where books
and paper were sold. Hence came ‘_stationarius_,’ one who held a
station, or who dealt in books, paper, &c.

_Tawdry._ According to the legend, St. Etheldreda (Saint Audrey)
is said to have died of a quinsy, which she considered sent her as
a judgment for her vanity concerning necklaces in her youth. Hence
‘tawdry’ has been explained as the necklace of St. Audrey. The word
now qualifies any silly, frivolous ornamentation; fine and showy,
but without taste or elegance.

_Thing._ There is a close connection between the noun ‘thing’ and
the verb ‘to think.’ In fact, the one is derived from the other.
For what is a _thing_? It is whatever causes us to _think_. There
is the same connection between the Latin noun ‘res’ and the verb
‘reor.’ We may also observe that the Italian ‘cosa’ and the French
‘chose’ are formed by the same analogy. They both mean ‘cause,’ i.
e. cause of ideas or thoughts.

_Tragedy._ It was a custom with the Greek peasants, when they
gathered in the vintage, to recite or sing an ode in honour of
Bacchus, their tutelary god of wine; and on this solemn occasion,
by way of propitiating that divinity, they sacrificed to him a
he-goat. The Greek for a ‘he-goat’ is τράγος; and a song (or ode)
is, in that language, ᾠδὴ (odē). Putting together τράγος and ᾠδὴ
we get ‘tragœdia’ (tragedy); literally, ‘the song of the goat,’
or, the song sung when the goat was sacrificed to Bacchus. Various
additions were afterwards made, such as dialogue, chorus, &c., till
at length the drama appeared in its present form.

_Wiseacre._ This word has, really, no connection whatever with
‘acre.’ The two roots, ‘wise’ and ‘acre,’ are clearly incompatible.
How then, did they come together? The word is, both in spelling
and pronunciation, a corruption of the German ‘weissager,’ a
‘wise-_sayer_,’ or sayer of wise maxims, or precepts.

_Wont._ The Anglo-Saxon ‘wunian’ meant to dwell, which naturally
involved the idea of being accustomed to; for we must become
accustomed to the dwelling in which we live. ‘He was _wont_ to
say,’ means he was in the habit of saying. Compare the German
‘wohnen’ and ‘Wohnung.’

_Zero._ The name given to the arithmetical ‘0’ is said to be
a contraction of the Italian ‘zephiro,’ a zephyr; i.e. a mere
nothing; having no more substance than a breeze, or breath of air.
It is also sometimes called a ‘cipher,’ from the Arabic ‘cifr,’



[1] See Génin, Variations du Langage français, p. 312.

[2] In some cases, this difference of meaning may be accounted
for by a difference of etymology. ‘To let,’ in the sense of ‘to
hinder,’ is from the Saxon verb ‘letjan;’ but when it means ‘to
allow,’ it is from the Saxon ‘lætan.’ See Mätzner, _Englische
Grammatik_, vol. i. p. 189.

[3] ‘To cleave,’ meaning ‘to adhere to,’ is from the Anglo-Saxon
‘cleofan,’ ‘clufan;’ but in the sense of ‘to split,’ it is from
‘clifan,’ ‘clifian.’ See Mätzner, vol. i. p. 202.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Works by the same Author._

  ENGLISH GRAMMAR PRACTICE; or, Exercises on the Etymology, Syntax,
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‘A volume of exercises which seem to have been selected with a ripe


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‘So far as we have examined this work, its nomenclature seems much
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‘Not only are the rules here expressed in very simple and
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‘The principle adopted in this little work is a sound one. Most
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  ACTON’S Modern Cookery, 27

  ALCOCK’S Residence in Japan, 22

  ALLIES on Formation of Christendom, 20

  Alpine Guide (The), 23

  ALVENSLEBEN’S Maximilian in Mexico, 5

  APJOHN’S Manual of the Metalloids, 12

  ARNOLD’S Manual of English Literature, 7

  ARNOTT’S Elements of Physics, 11

  Arundines Cami, 25

  Autumn holidays of a Country Parson, 8

  AYRE’S Treasury of Bible Knowledge, 19

  BACON’S Essays, by WHATELY, 5

  ---- Life and Letters, by SPEDDING, 5

  ---- Works, 6

  BAIN on the Emotions and Will, 9

  ---- on the Senses and Intellect, 9

  ---- on the Study of Character, 9

  BALL’S Alpine Guide, 22

  BARNARD’S Drawing from Nature, 16

  BAYLDON’S Rents and Tillages, 18

  Beaten Tracks, 22

  BECKER’S Charicles _and_ Gallus, 23

  BEETHOVEN’S Letters, 4

  BENFEY’S Sanskrit Dictionary, 8

  BERRY’S Journals and Correspondence, 4

  Billiard Book (The), 26

  BLACK’S Treatise on Brewing, 28

  BLACKLEY and FRIEDLANDER’S German and English Dictionary, 8

  BLAINE’S Rural Sports, 25

  ---- Veterinary Art, 26

  BLIGHT’S Week at the Land’s End, 23

  BOOTH’S Epigrams, 9

  BOURNE on Screw Propeller, 17

  BOURNE’S Catechism of the Steam Engine, 17

  ---- Handbook of Steam Engine, 17

  ---- Treatise on the Steam Engine, 17

  ---- Examples of Steam, Air, and Gas Engines, 17


  BOYD’S Manual for Naval Cadets, 27

  BRAMLEY-MOORE’S Six Sisters of the Valleys, 23

  BRANDE’S Dictionary of Science, Literature, and Art, 13

  BRAY’S (C.) Education of the Feelings, 10

  ---- Philosophy of Necessity, 10

  ---- on Force, 10

  BRINTON on Food and Digestion, 27

  BRISTOW’S Glossary of Mineralogy, 11

  BRODIE’S (Sir C. B.) Works, 15

  ---- Constitutional History, 2

  BROWNE’S Exposition 39 Articles, 18

  BUCKLE’S History of Civilization, 2

  BULL’S Hints to Mothers, 28

  ---- Maternal Management of Children, 28

  BUNSEN’S (Baron) Ancient Egypt, 3

  ---- God in History, 3

  ---- Memoirs, 4

  BUNSEN (E. DE) on Apocrypha, 20

  ----‘s Keys of St. Peter, 20

  BURKE’S Vicissitudes of Families, 5

  BURTON’S Christian Church, 3

  Cabinet Lawyer, 28

  CALVERT’S Wife’s Manual, 21

  CATES’S Biographical Dictionary, 4

  CATS’ and FARLIE’S Moral Emblems, 16

  CHESNEY’S Indian Polity, 23

  Chorale Book for England, 16

  Christian Schools and Scholars, 10

  CLOUGH’S Lives from Plutarch, 2

  COLENSO (Bishop) on Pentateuch and Book of Joshua, 19

  COLLINS’S Horse-Trainer’s Guide, 26

  Common-place Philosopher in Town and Country, 8

  CONINGTON’S Chemical Analysis, 14

  ---- Translation of VIRGIL’S _Æneid_, 25

  CONTANSEAU’S Pocket French and English Dictionary, 8

  ---- Practical ditto, 8

  CONYBEARE and HOWSON’S Life and Epistles of St. Paul, 18

  COOK on the Acts, 18

  COPLAND’S Dictionary of Practical Medicine, 15

  COULTHART’S Decimal Interest Tables, 28

  Counsel and Comfort from a City Pulpit, 8

  COX’S Manual of Mythology, 24

  ---- Tales of the Great Persian War, 2

  ---- Tales from Greek Mythology, 24

  ---- Tales of the Gods and Heroes, 24

  ---- Tales of Thebes and Argos, 24

  ---- Tales from Ancient Greece, 24

  CRESY’S Encyclopædia of Civil Engineering, 17

  Critical Essays of a Country Parson, 8

  CROWE’S History of France, 2

  CRUMP on Banking, Currency, & Exchanges, 27

  DART’S Iliad of Homer, 25

  D’AUBIGNE’S History of the Reformation in the time of CALVIN, 2

  DAVIDSON’S Introduction to New Testament, 19

  DAYMAN’S Dante’s Divina Commedia, 25

  Dead Shot (The), by MARKSMAN, 26

  DE BURGH’S Maritime International Law, 27

  DE LA RIVE’S Treatise on Electricity, 11

  DE MORGAN on Matter and Spirit, 9

  DE TOCQUEVILLE’S Democracy in America, 2

  DISRAELI’S Speeches on Parliamentary Reform, 6

  DOBSON on the Ox, 27

  DOVE on Storms, 10

  DYER’S City of Rome, 2

  EASTLAKE’S Hints on Household Taste, 17

  EDWARDS’ Shipmaster’s Guide, 27

  Elements of Botany, 13

  ELLICOTT’S Commentary on Ephesians, 19

  ---- Lectures on Life of Christ, 19

  ---- Commentary on Galatians, 19

  ---- ---- Pastoral Epist., 19

  ---- ---- Philippians, &c., 19

  ---- ---- Thessalonians, 19

  ENGEL’S Introduction to National Music, 15

  Essays and Reviews, 20

  ---- on Religion and Literature, edited by MANNING, FIRST _and_
         SECOND SERIES, 20

  EWALD’S History of Israel, 19

  FAIRBAIRN on Iron Shipbuilding, 17

  FAIRBAIRN’S Application of Cast and Wrought Iron to Building, 17

  ---- Information for Engineers, 17

  ---- Treatise on Mills & Millwork, 17

  FARRAR’S Chapters on Language, 7

  FELKIN on Hosiery and Lace Manufactures, 18

  FFOULKES’S Christendom’s Divisions, 20

  FLIEDNER’S (Pastor) Life, 5

  FRANCIS’S Fishing Book, 26

  ---- (Sir P.) Memoir and Journal, 4

  Friends in Council, 9

  FROUDE’S History of England, 1

  ---- Short Studies on Great Subjects, 8

  GANOT’S Elementary Physics, 11

  GILBERT and CHURCHILL’S Dolomite Mountains, 22

  GILL’S Papal Drama, 3

  GILLY’S Shipwrecks of the Navy, 22

  GOODEVE’S Elements of Mechanism, 17

  GORLE’S Questions on BROWNE’S Exposition of the 39 Articles, 18

  GOULD’S Silver Store, 10

  GRANT’S Ethics of Aristotle, 5

  Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 8

  GRAY’S Anatomy, 14

  GREENE’S Corals and Sea Jellies, 12

  ---- Sponges and Animalculæ, 12

  GROVE on Correlation of Physical Forces, 11

  GWILT’S Encyclopædia of Architecture, 16

  Handbook of Angling, by EPHEMERA, 26

  HARE on Election of Representatives, 6

  HARLEY and BROWN’S Histological Demonstrations, 15

  HARTWIG’S Harmonies of Nature, 12

  ---- Polar World, 12

  ---- Sea and its Living Wonders, 12

  ---- Tropical World, 12

  HAUGHTON’S Manual of Geology, 11

  HAWKER’S Instructions to Young Sportsmen, 26

  HEARN’S Plutology, 1

  ---- on English Government, 1

  HELPS’S Spanish Conquest in America, 2

  HENDERSON’S Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties, 10

  HERSCHEL’S Outlines of Astronomy, 10

  HEWITT on Diseases of Women, 14

  HODGSON’S Time and Space, 9

  HOLMES’S System of Surgery, 14

  ---- Surgical Diseases of Infancy, 14

  HOOKER and WALKER-ARNOTT’S British Flora, 13

  HOPKINS’S Hawaii, 11

  HORNE’S Introduction to the Scriptures, 19

  ---- Compendium of ditto, 19

  HORSLEY’S Manual of Poisons, 15

  HOSKYNS’S Occasional Essays, 9

  How we Spent the Summer, 22

  HOWARD’S Gymnastic Exercises, 15

  HOWITT’S Australian Discovery, 22

  ---- Rural Life of England, 23

  ---- Visits to Remarkable Places, 23

  HUDSON’S Executor’s Guide, 28

  HUGHES’S (W.) Manual of Geography, 10

  HULLAH’S Collection of Sacred Music, 16

  ---- Lectures on Modern Music, 15

  ---- Transition Musical Lectures, 15

  HUMPHREYS’ Sentiments of Shakspeare, 16

  HUTTON’S Studies in Parliament, 8

  INGELOW’S Poems, 25

  ---- Story of Doom, 25

  JAMESON’S Legends of the Saints and Martyrs, 16

  ---- Legends of the Madonna, 16

  ---- Legends of the Monastic Orders, 16

  JAMESON and EASTLAKE’S History of Our Lord, 16

  JENNER’S Holy Child, 25

  JOHNSTON’S Gazetteer, or Geographical Dictionary, 10

  JORDAN’S Vis Inertiæ in the Ocean, 10

  KALISCH’S Commentary on the Bible, 7

  ---- Hebrew Grammar, 7

  KEITH on Fulfilment of Prophecy, 18

  ---- Destiny of the World, 18

  KELLER’S Lake Dwellings of Switzerland, 12

  KESTEVEN’S Domestic Medicine, 15

  KIRBY and SPENCE’S Entomology, 13

  KNIGHT’S Arch of Titus, 22

  Lady’s Tour Round Monte Rosa, 22

  LANDON’S (L. E. L.) Poetical Works, 25

  LATHAM’S English Dictionary, 7

  ---- River Plate, 10

  LAWRENCE on Rocks, 11

  LECKY’S History of Rationalism, 3

  LEIGH’S Homeward Ride, 25

  Leisure Hours in Town, 8

  Lessons of Middle Age, 8

  LEWES’ History of Philosophy, 3

  Letters of Distinguished Musicians, 4

  LIDDELL and SCOTT’S Greek-English Lexicon, 7

  ---- ---- Abridged ditto, 7

  Life of Man Symbolised, 16

  LINDLEY and MOORE’S Treasury of Botany, 13

  LONGMAN’S Lectures on the History of England, 2

  LOUDON’S Agriculture, 18

  ---- Cottage, Farm, Villa Architecture, 18

  ---- Gardening, 18

  ---- Plants, 13

  ---- Trees and Shrubs, 13

  LOWNDES’S Engineer’s Handbook, 17

  Lyra Domestica, 21

  ---- Eucharistica, 21

  ---- Germanica, 16, 21

  ---- Messianica, 21

  ---- Mystica, 21

  ---- Sacra, 21

  MACAULAY’S (Lord) Essays, 3

  ---- History of England, 1

  ---- Lays of Ancient Rome, 24

  ---- Miscellaneous Writings, 8

  ---- Speeches, 6

  ---- Works, 1

  MACFARREN’S Lectures on Harmony, 15

  MACLEOD’S Elements of Political Economy, 6

  ---- Dictionary of Political Economy, 6

  ---- Elements of Banking, 27

  ---- Theory and Practice of Banking, 27

  MCCULLOCH’S Dictionary of Commerce, 27

  ---- Geographical Dictionary, 10

  MAGUIRE’S Irish in America, 23

  ---- Life of Father Mathew, 4

  ---- Rome and its Rulers, 4

  MALLESON’S French in India, 3

  MANNING on Holy Ghost, 20

  ----‘s England and Christendom, 20

  MARSHALL’S Physiology, 14

  MARSHMAN’S Life of Havelock 5

  ---- History of India, 3

  MARTINEAU’S Endeavours after the Christian Life, 21

  MASSEY’S History of England, 2

  ---- (G.) on Shakspeare’s Sonnets, 25

  MASSINGBERD’S History of the Reformation, 4

  MAUNDER’S Biographical Treasury, 5

  ---- Geographical Treasury, 11

  ---- Historical Treasury, 3

  ---- Scientific and Literary Treasury, 13

  ---- Treasury of Knowledge, 28

  ---- Treasury of Natural History, 13

  MAURY’S Physical Geography, 10

  MAY’S Constitutional History of England, 2

  MELVILLE’S Digby Grand, 24

  ---- General Bounce, 24

  ---- Gladiators, 24

  ---- Good for Nothing, 24

  ---- Holmby House, 24

  ---- Interpreter, 24

  ---- Kate Coventry, 24

  ---- Queen’s Maries, 24

  MENDELSSOHN’S Letters, 4

  MERIVALE’S (H.) Historical Studies, 2

  ---- (C.) Fall of the Roman Republic, 3

  ---- Romans under the Empire, 3

  MILES on Horse’s Foot and Horse-shoeing, 26

  ---- on Horses’ Teeth and Stables, 26

  MILL on Liberty, 6

  ---- on Representative Government, 6

  ---- on Utilitarianism, 6

  MILL’S Dissertations and Discussions, 6

  ---- Political Economy, 6

  ---- System of Logic, 6

  ---- Hamilton’s Philosophy, 6

  ---- St. Andrews’ Inaugural Address, 6

  MILLER’S Elements of Chemistry, 14

  MITCHELL’S Manual of Assaying, 18

  MONSELL’S Beatitudes, 21

  ---- His Presence--not his Memory, 21

  ---- ‘Spiritual Songs’, 21

  MONTGOMERY on Pregnancy, 14

  MOORE’S Irish Melodies, 24

  ---- Lalla Rookh, 24

  ---- Poetical Works, 24

  ---- (Dr. G.) First Man, 12

  MORELL’S Elements of Psychology, 9

  ---- Mental Philosophy, 9

  MOSHEIM’S Ecclesiastical History, 21

  MOZART’S Letters, 4

  MÜLLER’S (MAX) Chips from a German Workshop, 9

  ---- ---- Lectures on the Science of Language, 7

  ---- (K. O.) Literature of Ancient Greece, 2

  MURCHISON on Continued Fevers, 14

  MURE’S Language and Literature of Greece, 2

  New Testament, illustrated with Wood Engravings from the Old
          Masters, 16

  NEWMAN’S History of his Religious Opinions, 4

  NICHOLAS’S Pedigree of the English People, 9

  NICHOLS’ Handbook to the British Museum, 28

  NIGHTINGALE’S Notes on Hospitals, 28

  NILSSON’S Scandinavia, 12

  ODLING’S Animal Chemistry, 14

  ---- Course of Practical Chemistry, 14

  ---- Manual of Chemistry, 14

  Original Designs for Wood Carving, 17

  OWEN’S Lectures on the Invertebrate Animals, 12

  ---- Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Vertebrate Animals, 12

  OXENHAM on Atonement, 20

  PACKE’S Guide to the Pyrenees, 22

  PAGET’S Lectures on Surgical Pathology, 14

  PEREIRA’S Manual of Materia Medica, 22

  PERKINS’S Tuscan Sculptors, 17

  PHILLIPS’S Guide to Geology, 11

  Pictures in Tyrol, 22

  PIESSE’S Art of Perfumery, 18

  ---- Chemical, Natural, and Physical Magic, 18

  PIKE’S English and their Origin, 9

  PITT on Brewing, 28

  Playtime with the Poets, 25

  PLOWDEN’S Travels in Abyssinia, 22

  PRATT’S Law of Building Societies, 28

  PRESCOTT’S Scripture Difficulties, 19

  PROCTOR’S Saturn, 10

  ---- Handbook of the Stars, 10

  PYCROFT’S Course of English Reading, 7

  ---- Cricket Field, 26

  RAIKES’S Englishman in India, 23

  READE’S Poetical Works, 25

  Recreations of a Country Parson, 8

  REILY’S Map of Mont Blanc, 22

  REIMANN on Aniline, 15

  REYNOLDS’S Alice Rushton, 25

  RIVERS’S Rose Amateur’s Guide, 13

  ROGERS’S Correspondence of Greyson, 9

  ---- Eclipse of Faith, 9

  ---- Defence of ditto, 9

  ---- Essays from the _Edinburgh Review_, 9

  ---- Reason and Faith, 9

  ROGET’S Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, 7

  RONALDS’S Fly-Fisher’s Entomology, 26

  ROWTON’S Debater, 7

  RUDD’S Aristophanes, 25

  RUSSELL on Government and Constitution, 1

  SANDARS’S Justinian’s Institutes, 5

  SCHUBERT’S Life, translated by COLERIDGE, 5

  SCOTT’S Lectures on the Fine Arts, 15

  SEEBOHM’S Oxford Reformers of 1498, 2

  SEWELL’S After Life, 23

  ---- Amy Herbert, 23

  ---- Cleve Hall, 23

  ---- Earl’s Daughter, 23

  ---- Examination for Confirmation, 20

  ---- Experience of Life, 23

  ---- Gertrude, 23

  ---- Glimpse of the World, 23

  ---- History of the Early Church, 3

  ---- Ivors, 23

  ---- Journal of a Home Life, 23

  ---- Katharine Ashton, 23

  ---- Laneton Parsonage, 23

  ---- Margaret Percival, 23

  ---- Passing Thoughts on Religion, 20

  ---- Preparation for Communion, 20

  ---- Principles of Education, 20

  ---- Readings for Confirmation, 20

  ---- Readings for Lent, 20

  ---- Tales and Stories, 23

  ---- Ursula, 23

  SHAW’S Work on Wine, 28

  SHEPHERD’S Iceland, 21

  SHIPLEY’S Church and the World, 19

  ---- Tracts for the Day, 20

  Short Whist, 28

  SHORT’S Church History, 3

  SMITH’S (SOUTHWOOD) Philosophy of Health, 28

  ---- (J.) Paul’s Voyage and Shipwreck, 18

  ---- (G.) King David, 19

  ---- Wesleyan Methodism, 4

  ---- (SYDNEY) Miscellaneous Works, 8

  ---- Moral Philosophy, 8

  ---- Wit and Wisdom, 9

  SMITH on Cavalry Drill and Manœuvres, 26

  SOUTHEY’S (Doctor), 7

  ---- Poetical Works, 24

  Springdale Abbey, 23

  STANLEY’S History of British Birds, 12

  STEBBING’S Analysis of MILL’S Logic, 6

  STEPHEN’S Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, 5

  ---- Lectures on History of France, 2

  STIRLING’S Secret of Hegel, 9

  STONEHENGE on the Dog, 26

  ---- on the Greyhound, 27

  Story of Mairwara, 23

  Sunday Afternoons at the Parish Church of a Scottish University City
          (Aberdeen), 8

  TAYLOR’S (Jeremy) Works, edited by EDEN, 21

  ---- (E.) Selections from some Contemporary Poets, 25

  TENNENT’S Ceylon, 13

  ---- Wild Elephant, 13

  THIRLWALL’S History of Greece, 2

  THOMSON’S (Archbishop) Laws of Thought, 6

  ---- (A. T.) Conspectus, 15

  TIMBS’S Curiosities of London, 23

  TODD (A.) on Parliamentary Government, 1

  TODD and BOWMAN’S Anatomy and Physiology of Man, 15

  TROLLOPE’S Barchester Towers, 23

  ---- Warden, 23

  TWISS’S Law of Nations, 27

  TYNDALL’S Lectures on Heat,

  ---- Sound,

  ---- Memoir of FARADAY,

  URE’S Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures and Mines,

  VAN DER HOEVEN’S Handbook of Zoology,

  VAUGHAN’S (R.) Revolutions in English History,

  ---- Way to Rest,

  WALKER on the Rifle,

  WARD’S Workmen and Wages,

  WATSON’S Principles and Practice of Physics,

  WATTS’S Dictionary of Chemistry,

  WEBB’S Objects for Common Telescopes,

  WEBSTER & WILKINSON’S Greek Testament,

  WELD’S Florence,

  WELLINGTON’S Life, by the Rev. G. R. GLEIG,

  WELLS on Dew,

  WENDT’S Papers on Maritime Law,

  WEST on Children’s Diseases,

  WHATELY’S English Synonymes,

  ---- Logic,

  ---- Rhetoric,

  ---- Life and Correspondence,

  WHATELY on the Truth of Christianity,

  ---- Religious Worship,

  Whist, what to lead, by CAM,

  WHITE and RIDDLE’S Latin-English Dictionaries,

  WINSLOW on Light,

  WOOD’S Bible Animals,

  ---- Homes without Hands,

  WRIGHT’S Homer’s Iliad,

  YONGE’S English-Greek Lexicon,

  ---- Abridged ditto,

  ---- Horace,

  YOUNG’S Nautical Dictionary,

  YOUATT on the Dog,

  ---- on the Horse,



  Many printing errors in punctuation, missing or misplaced italic,
  or a missing quote mark, have been corrected for consistency when
  the context is a single paragraph.

  At the back of the book is a large Publisher’s Catalog and an Index
  to that Catalog. The book titles, or partial titles, are =bolded=. The
  original text sometimes ended the =bold title= font at the end of the
  first printed line mid-title or even mid-word. In the etext the =bold=
  ending has been moved in these cases to the end of the title phrase.

  The last column of the final page of the Catalog Index is missing
  the page numbers. This affects the entries from ‘TYNDALL’ to ‘YOUATT’.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example,
  Shakspere, Shakspeare; every-day, everyday; now-a-days, nowadays;
  imbedded; intire; especial; contrariety.

  Pg 34, ‘over-_against_ us’ replaced by ‘over--_against_--us’.
  Pg 109, ‘and at at last’ replaced by ‘and at last’.
  Pg 128, ‘reckless spendrift’ replaced by ‘reckless spendthrift’.
  Pg 152, ‘epithetsis’ replaced by ‘epithets is’.
  Pg 196, ‘be(_w_are)’ replaced by ‘(be)_w_are’.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Book About Words" ***

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