What is Etymology?

Etymology is the reasoning (-ology) of the true (etym) meaning and sense of words, via identifying their origins, denotative meanings, and the various shades of meaning applied over time. It is a broad topic that includes: phonetics, Analysis of the sounds of which words are comprised; morphology; the study of morphemes, the smallest unit of language that carries meaning (think prefix, root, and suffix). semantics, the study of word meanings and the analysis of how they change over time; syntax, the study of the placement of words in sentences, or grammar. and transliteration, how forms change over time.

Why Etymology?

Etymological studies can help one improve their reading comprehension.Numerous studies have shown that studying morphology (particularly Latin and Greek roots and affixes) is a key component to vocabulary acquisition, as it provides a framework and patterns for both decoding and defining words. A more thorough study of denotation and connotation provides deeper and richer contextual meaning to words, giving more precision and accuracy to the author's intended meaning.

Etymology can strengthen one's writing abilities. As we learn more words, we develop more accuracy and precision in our usage of them. No longer will you use the words repeatedly to express your point; a good lesson in the use of Roget's Thesaurus can help use words more accurately and thus, driving our point home with more rigor and finesse.

Etymology can help improve one's spelling. Remember Akeelah and the Bee? Little words make up big words, and those little words are morphemes from Latin, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, French, Spanish, Arabic, Algonquin, etc... Word origins contribute to orthographic knowledge and understanding which letters represent given sounds in words.

Etymology improves our speaking and our communication overall. Akin to writing, etymology can help us to better elucidate our ideas when giving speeches or making presentations.