from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The origin and historical development of a linguistic form as shown by determining its basic elements, earliest known use, and changes in form and meaning, tracing its transmission from one language to another, identifying its cognates in other languages, and reconstructing its ancestral form where possible.
  • n. The branch of linguistics that deals with etymologies.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The study of the historical development of languages, particularly as manifested in individual words.
  • n. An account of the origin and historical development of a word.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. That branch of philological science which treats of the history of words, tracing out their origin, primitive significance, and changes of form and meaning.
  • n. That part of grammar which relates to the changes in the form of the words in a language; inflection.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. That part of philology which treats of the history of words in respect both to form and to meanings, tracing them back toward their origin, and setting forth and explaining the changes they have undergone.
  • n. Specifically The particular history of a word, including an account of its various forms and senses.
  • n. In grammar, that division of grammar which treats of the parts of speech and their inflections.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the study of the sources and development of words
  • n. a history of a word


Middle English etimologie, from Old French ethimologie, from Medieval Latin ethimologia, from Latin etymologia, from Greek etumologiā : etumon, true sense of a word; see etymon + -logiā, -logy.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English etimologie, from Old French ethimologie, from Latin etymologia, from Ancient Greek ἐτυμολογία (etumologia), from ἔτυμον (etumon, "true sense") and -λογία (-logia, "study of") (from λόγος (logos)). (Wiktionary)



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  • Humpty Dumpty: When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.
    Alice: The question is, whether you can make words mean so many different things.
    Humpty Dumpty: The question is: which is to be master - that's all.

    November 9, 2010

  • As do I - and even my mother, who is an entomologist.

    June 17, 2010

  • Definitely not- I get them mixed up all the time.

    February 18, 2008

  • Am I the only one that ever gets this confused with entomology?

    February 18, 2008