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The uncertainty of etymology

ckosarek's picture

 Fingo, Fingere, Finxi, Fictus - v., 3rd conj., "pretend, feign, disassemble."; from the Proto-Indo-European word meaning, "to mold."

In Latin, words do not have a direct translation. Instead they have "senses." For example, the "sense" of the adjective, "honestus" is "honorable" or "commendable"; either "honorable" or "commendable" would be an appropriate translation of "honestus", depending on context. Context determines the meaning of a word; words have no concrete meaning on their own - they only have "senses", the innate properties that mean nothing without surrounding verbal framework. 

Given that English is a Germanic language, taking many of its roots and grammatical forms from Latin (although it is less related to Latin than the Romantic languages - i.e. French, Italian), perhaps one can argue that instead of looking for "definitions" of words, we should instead acknowledge "senses" of words and leave context to determine definition, as Latin (and Greek) do. If we allow words to be defined by their context, then maybe dictionaries and etymological reference materials will be seen more as narratives of the cultural contexts in which they were conceived. 

 

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