The Etymology and Semantic Shift of "Humour" Analytical Essay by ShrodingersCat

The Etymology and Semantic Shift of "Humour"
An explanation of how the word humour has evolved and changed over time.
# 103451 | 1,384 words | 1 source | MLA | 2007 | CA
Published on May 13, 2008 in Language (English: Linguistics) , Shakespeare (General)

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This paper describes the evolution of the word humour from its early appearance as a Latin noun through the ages with several references to works by Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare.

From the Paper:

""Humour," according to Adrian Room's Dictionary of Changes in Meaning, is one of the most renowned words in the English language for its radical semantic shift (143). It is a descendant of the Latin noun umor, "moisture," which is related to the verbs umere "to be wet" and uvescere "to become wet"; and adjective umidus "wet" (Shipley, 441). The addition of the letter h to the beginning of the word is the result of an incorrect folk association to the Latin humus, which means earth or soil (Klein, 750; Harper).
"Its Indo-European root is ugw- and wegw- for "wet, moist, to sprinkle" (Klein, 750; Claiborne). The Old Norse wegw led to the expression "in its wake" from the Germanic *wakw- , "wet spot," referring to a crack in the ice. It has been suggested that its suffixed zero-grade form *ugw-sm is the base of the Latin humere. The suffixed zero-grade form *ugw-no led to the Greek hygros, "wet, liquid" (Watkins). Other words coming from the same root include the Armenian oyc, "fresh," and the Old Norse vokr, "moist, damp" (Klein, 750)."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Bartlett, John. The New and Complete Concordance to Shakespeare.

Cite this Analytical Essay:

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