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Word Origins: An Exploration and History of Words and Language Hardcover – August 11, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Bell Publishing Company; Reprint edition (August 11, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517265745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517265741
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,695 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

From a highly respected name in reference literature, an easy-to-access, dependable sourcebook on the origin and development of thousands of words, each word has been thoroughly checked by ranking linguists and the information is presented in a manner as entertaining as fiction, An Outlet bestseller in previous editions. 432 pages. 6 X 9.

Customer Reviews

This book is a great addition to any home looking for fun enlightenment.
K. Robertson
Although the book is by theme, I do prefer a book on this subject to be alphabetical.
Dew
I was intrigued by the history and usage of words like barrister and pettition.
Kersi Von Zerububbel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

157 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Richard La Fianza on March 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
A lot of hard work and passion went into this book, and it shows. Mr. Funk has written a classic book on word origins which is fun for any scrabble lover, scholar, or souled individual.
Arranged into topics from business to war to flowers, the author explains the most likely origins behind everyday words and expressions. "Laconic," for example, means brief and blunt. Its origins, more than 2600 years ago, take it back to the Greek Wars. The Laconians, when told by an ambassador that "if we come to your city we will raze the walls and kill everyone." The Laconians reply? "If."
Or take the origins of the word "bread." Originally it meant a piece. With time, it came to mean the whole loaf. By reading through "word origins" you will learn that many words were named after people or places. Other words are corruptions of other languages. Some words are simple "borrowed" from other languages. (called "loan words," but who gives them back?) Some other words have origins lost in time. I enjoyed reading "Word Origins" and go back to it, again and again, when I am curious about a word or phrase. If you have any interest in this area, you should enjoy this book. Well done, a good read.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Dew on January 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I love books like this. If you are like me and your reading habits range from the past to the present, then this book would be of interest to you.

This book is arranged according to themes, such as politics, religion, history, cooking, scientific names, proper names, and sports. Although the book is by theme, I do prefer a book on this subject to be alphabetical.

Some examples:

Alimony originates as a term that literally means to Eat Money

Tart was a term of endearment

Wench was a name for a child
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Marci Baun on October 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
"Every word was once a poem. Each began as a picture. Our language is made up of terms that were all originally figures of speech." - Wilfred Funk

This is how the book begins -- a fitting one for something that exudes passion for and tells stories of the English language. This book, by Funk, a lexicographer, editor, author and president of Funk & Wagnalls before his death in 1965, entertains and educates. Words or sayings you think you know take on whole new meanings.

The book is set up in chapters of words that relate to each other like "Where Words About Human Beings Come From", "Sources of Words of Attitudes and Emotions", and "Where Animal Names Come From". The chapters are broken up into sections: intro, alphabetical listing of words, and, in some chapters, miscellaneous words not included in the alphabetical listing. When Funk includes the miscellaneous words, he often connects one word to the next, much like James Burke links science, historical events and innovative ideas in the famous TV series Connections. However, on a few occasions, Funk is not always as adept in his explanations as Burke. In these instances, the explanations have left me with more questions than answers.

However, if you are like me and love the English language and are curious about its origins, Word Origins is an excellent place to begin. While I may have found a few things that disappointed me, overall, I was glad to add this book to my library.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kersi Von Zerububbel VINE VOICE on September 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled upon this jewel at the local Rancho Bernardo library. My high school english teacher in India, Mr. F. X. Paul, owned a tattered copy and used to read to us aloud a page or two in his grammar class. It helped relieve our boredom brought upon by trying to memorize grammar rules and sentence parsing.

Funk gives you a non-technical discourse on word etymologies. Grouped by categories, and sorted alphabetically, common english words and their history is explained. The write-up on individual words is very interesting and makes for a superb read. I was intrigued by the history and usage of words like barrister and pettition.

For a non-linguist like myself this book is a treasure trove of delight. Excellent resource.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ryan Fisher VINE VOICE on September 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Some edition of Word Origins has been around for nearly 60 continuous years. Wilfred Funk, who in every way perhaps best represents the archetypal American wordsmith, complied and interesting but not exhaustive (how could it be?) volume of words and their anecdotal genesis.
Word Origins is a fun book, and if you're the trivial type, or aspire to be, you would be well served by reading a few pages a night.
I wouldn't call it "gripping," but if you need something to read that can be set aside and easily returned to, this is the book to have.
Great fun and much appreciated.
REVIEW EVERY BOOK YOU READ.
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33 of 47 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book is among the best in its catagory. The author journeys through word stories, taking related groups of words, telling their stories in a way that makes each word come alive.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By K. Robertson on January 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a great addition to any home looking for fun enlightenment. Purchased as a learning tool it doubles in our home as "fun reading". Two birds with one stone (so to speak) We really enjoy it!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By Edward G. Schultz, author of "Morgan's Mission", "Christmas Stories For Adults" and "Poems For Those Who Don't Like Poetry".
Books about words fascinate me and Mr. Funk has arranged them so as to be easy to correlate. Almost every time I pick up this book, I find a new word origination that I had wondered about. Of course, as a writer, it also helps me to use better terminology and provides synonyms that I might have not reconized. Although there are many books on the origination of words, this one is unique in the manner of correlation of the subjects.
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