Words and Ideas

Words and Ideas

Words and Ideas

Words and Ideas


Unlike most etymology textbooks, this one presents the words studied in the context of the ideas in which the words functioned. Instead of studying endless lists of word roots, suffixes, and prefixes in isolation, the words are enlivened by their social, literary, and cultural media. Features: Chapters on Mythology, Medicine, Politics and Law, Commerce and Economics, Philosophy and Psychology, History Introduction to word building Exercises throughout Illustrations of ancient artifacts Clever cartoons on word origins Glossary of English words and phrases.


“By words the mind is excited and the spirit elated.”


“Words are the daughters of heaven and things are the sons of

(Samuel Johnson)

“Words are the most powerful drug of mankind.”

(Rudyard Kipling)

Words and Ideas focuses on modern English words, their ancient bases, and the ancient concepts that lie underneath these words that aid in the understanding of their meanings. On a general level this book aims to help extend students' general vocabulary and knowledge, to arouse the curiosity of students about the relationship between words and concepts in different cultures, and to demonstrate the degree of continuity and interrelatedness of these cultures. On a more specific level it aims to train students in the analysis of polysyllabic words by focusing on important words and concepts that are used regularly in academic work, to acquaint them with the origin and history of some of the fundamental ideas of the ancient world and of the twenty-first century in certain key areas, and to develop in students a basic understanding of the ancient Greek and Roman worlds. The key words and phrases discussed in this book usually appear in bold print to stress their importance. Exercises are provided in each chapter for written work or discussion in class.

Chapters 1 (“Word Building Basics”), 2 (“Word Building Tools: Greek Components”), and 3 (“Word Building Tools: Latin Components”) provide a foundation and framework for the subsequent chapters of the book. One of the purposes of these chapters is to provide a general background to the system and rules of word building. They discuss such topics as language families; major stages in the development of English vocabulary; the Greek and Roman alphabets; writing Greek words in the Roman alphabet; the parts of speech; the structure of English words; and common prefixes, bases, suffixes, and combining forms.

Chapters 1–3 also serve as a practical introduction to the mechanics of word building. They aim to help students develop the ability to analyze unfamiliar words in terms of their derivational components and to assist in the acquisition of standard word building and vocabulary skills. Since the words discussed in this and subsequent chapters have been brought into English according to a system, an . . .

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