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Study of etymology: How it can help to improve your English?

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What is etymology?

To further develop language and vocabulary, you need to understand the origins of words. Which language is it more related to?  How was it changed over its evolution?  The study of words, their origins and evolution is known as etymology. Etymologists are experts in the study of etymology.

Etymology applies to languages which has a long history and tradition. English, with its rich history of centuries, qualifies for it. Other languages include Spanish, German, etc. Etymology is a tedious and a critical component of English language development. Without it, a language cannot progress and evolve as a sign of progressive civilization.

Methods of etymology

Methods of etymology:


Etymologists use different techniques to study words. Some main methods are as follows:

1. Philological research

This kind of research delves into the origin and evolution of words with the help of ancient texts. The modern and old texts are compared, analyzed, which after careful study gives conclusions. The study mainly sources data from historical texts. Philological research helps preserve ancient texts, which otherwise would have been lost over the passage of time.

2. Comparable method

This is the method that is largely used by etymologists. The study goes in a systematic way that draws comparisons with related languages and tries to identify linking with other languages. It is mainly used for words that have origins in one or more languages.

3. Semantic change

It involves the use of semantics to studying languages. The presumed hypotheses are then tested against historical evidence and conclusions are derived. Multiple languages are taken into consideration while studying semantic changes.

Benefits of etymology

Benefits of etymology:


Though tedious, studying etymology has many benefits which are as follows:

1. Pronunciation

Study of the etymology of English words helps in understanding the pronunciation of complex words. The pronunciation can be derived by understanding how ancient words were pronounced. Usually, pronunciation of an English word is usually taken from the parent word or a combination of two words.

2. Grammar

Grammar is the basis for any logical sentence formation. Study of etymology will help you to understand grammatical inferences better. If you get stuck on a grammatical concept for a word, try learning the origin of the word and you will understand the concept better. You can greatly improve your English vocabulary skills with the help of etymology.

Examples of Etymology:


Below are some basic examples of etymology:

1. Hand

Hand is derived from Germanic vocabulary. Old English usage was Hond. It is also related to Dutch 'Hand' and Germanic 'Hand'.

2. Hunger

It is derived from a combination of English, Dutch and German vocabulary. Old English words were 'hungor' or 'hyngran'. The Dutch word is 'honger' whereas the German one is 'Hunger'.

3. Blood

Blood is derived from the English word 'blessed'. Surprised? In olden English usage, the word 'bless' meant to be 'marked with blood'.

Examples of Etymology

The above definition and explanations will show why etymology is an integral part of learning English fluently. You can do an in-depth study of etymology with the help of an online English teacher. Make sure to have your dictionary handy!

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- By Chander Madan

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