Monday, December 13, 2004

An etymological dictionary online - looks good

Word origins matter. Sometime toward the end of my four years in high school Eric Partridge's book Origins became a favorite possession. I still have it; a 1959 Christmas gift, I would guess, from Uncle Ernie. The Oxford English Dictionary has supplanted it in recent years. But OED has drawbacks. The condensed version requires a magnifying glass and the online version requires a pricy subscription (thus available only in libraries as a rule). Here now is a new Online Etymological Dictionary. I tried it out with the word calendar with pretty good results.
c.1205, from O.Fr. calendier "list, register," from L. calendarium "account book," from kalendae "calends" the first day of the Roman month -- when debts fell due and accounts were reckoned -- from calare "to announce solemnly, call out," as the priests did in proclaiming the new moon that marked the calends, from PIE base *gal- "to call, shout" (cf. Skt. usakala "cock," lit. "dawn-calling;" M.Ir. cailech "cock;" Gk. kaleo "to call," kelados "noise," kledon "report, fame;" O.C.S. glasu "voice," glagolu "voice;" O.H.G. halan, O.N. kalla "to call;" O.E. hlowan "to low;" Lith. kalba "language"). Taken by the early Church for its register list of saints and their feast days. The -ar spelling in Eng. is 17c. to differentiate it from the now obscure calender "cloth-presser" (from M.L. calendra, from L. cylindrus, from the shape of the machine used).

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