Jan 20, 2016

Etymology Expeditions: Where do Emotions Come From?

Research suggests that emotions have been with us since the stone age. But what about emotions as concepts? Who invented anger? Let's explore some words for emotion.

Anger comes from Old Norse angr "distress, grief, sorrow, affliction."Sense of "rage, wrath" is from the 14th century. Such a sharp, aggressive-sounding word, isn't it? Old Norse also had words like angr-gapi "rash/foolish person" and angr-lyndi "sadness, low spirits." Wrath is from Old English wræððu "anger," from wrað "angry." Pique has its origins in the French piquer "to prick, to sting," so to exite to anger. Choler comes from Late Latin cholera "bile." 

Anxiety has its roots in Latin anxius "uneasy, troubled," from angere, anguere "choke, squeeze." Anguish is from the same root. Worry comes from the Old English wyrgan "to strangle."

The origins of sadness are quite interesting: the Old English sæd actually meant "sated, having had one's fill of food and drink." The meaning changed to "heavy, ponderous" ("full" in a mental sense), and then to "weary." The meaning "sad" is only from the 1300s. Before that you'd have used the Old English unrot, the opposite of rot "cheerful, glad."Sorrow comes from Old English sorg "grief, regret, trouble, pain, anxiety,"from Proto-Germanic sorg, perhaps from PIE swergh- "to worry, be sick."

Happiness, from happy, from hap "chance, fortune," so it meant that things turned out well. Apparently a lot of European words for happy originally meant lucky, excepth for the Welsh, where the word meant "wise." Figures, right? Old English had eadig "wealthy" and bliðe, which survives as blithe. Joy is from Old French joie, from Latin gaudia, from gaudere "rejoice."

Trust comes from the Old Norse traust "help, confidence," from Proto-Germanic treuwaz, from which we also get the word true.  

So, that's all for this week. See you next time!


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