The Importance of Etymology in Literacy, History, and Law

7 min readJun 9, 2018


What is etymology?

Etymology is the study of the origin of words. The breakdown of the word etymology is as follows:

Etymology: etym + olog + y

  • Etym derives from etymon, a Classical Greek adverb that means true, real, and actual.
  • + ology (olog + y) derives from the Medieval Latin and Greek word logia, meaning the study of. It comes from the root of the Latin word legein, which means to speak (think of the word lecture).

To study etymology, one must look at the matrix of a word. The root of the word matrix comes from the Latin word matrona, which means mother (see maternity, matriarch, etc.…). The matrix of a word gives us the mother of the word. The mother refers to the source or the origin of the word. Thus, studying etymology is finding the matrix of a word and determining the changes that have taken place over time.

Why study etymology?

  1. We need to study etymology to determine the true meaning of words and their functions in a sentence. Although this sounds pretty basic, think about the confusions that take place due to the seemingly multiple meanings of words? The general public understands the word “color” (as a noun) to refer to the pigmentation of a person’s skin, which they also erroneously call “race”. There is also the understanding that color is a substance that imparts a hue (such as red, blue, purple, etc.…). However, by looking at the etymology of the word, we derive the meaning to be, that which is hidden (Old Latin colos, meaning “a covering”). The latter meaning is one that we see most often in the context of law. Thus, if we study etymology, we will be able to identify the meaning of words in various contexts.
  2. Etymology also provides knowledge of history and culture throughout the world. This comes studying the denotative vs. the connotative meaning.
  3. The denotative meaning is the complete meaning, where de means complete and note refers to a marking. The complete meaning was applied to the word at its inception; thus, its etymological meaning must be its denotative meaning. Denotative meanings are derived from etymological analysis.
  4. The connotative meaning is an additional or shaded meaning, where the prefix con indicates with (added, together). It is not based on the etymology of the word, but on a meaning that has been attached to the word over time. (Remember, whoever controls the definition controls the debate. Europeans co-opted meanings to words with their own original meanings, to causes distortion and confusion, for the purposes of trading places with us and take our culture and our land- our birthright. They did so to hide information about our history, culture, status, and most importantly, our estate.

For example, the word consider and disaster have a root with the same meaning, which is star.

consider: Latin, considerare, con (with) + sidus (the stars)

disaster: dis (not) + aster (star), from Greek astron, meaning star

Consider means to “ponder and look toward the stars”. Disaster means “ill-starred, or a calamity due to not address or considering the stars when making a decision”. Our agricultural societies were influenced by astrological and astronomical phenomena, indicating when to plant and when to harvest. Holidays (holy or sacred days) are based stars and planets rising, falling, or joining with one another. Christmas aligns with the winter solstice (Sun stands still); the fourth of July is the Heliacal rising of Sirius (rising with the Sun); Easter, a fertility goddess signifying the Venus and her transit across the Sun. All of these are linked to agricultural festivals and celebrations. Our ancestors were bad.

Lastly, combining the two previous reasons, etymology is the key to waking up and freeing ourselves. From a divine perspective, etymology gives insight into the metaphysical principles of cosmogony. The word spirit is often used to falsely denote” the presence of a supernatural, immaterial creature (such as angel, demon, ghost, etc…). It also refers to the soul and the part of a human associated with the mind, will and feelings. The most well-known meaning is a vital principle or animating force within living beings. Studying the etymology of the word, we see that spirit comes from the Latin spiritus which means “breathing”. Spirit is the breath. Could one say that Holy Spirit is Holy Breath? And since holy means “whole or full,” could one say that Holy Breath is full or deep breathing.

From the national perspective, let’s go back and review the meaning of the word color. Color, again, refers to that which is hidden. This is most evident in the legal definition.

In law, color means “an appearance, semblance [or symbol] or simulacrum, distinguished from that which is real. A prima facie or apparent right. Hence, a deceptive appearance; a plausible, assumed exterior, concealing a lack of reality” (see Black’s Law Dictionary, 4th ed. )

Can see that the etymological meaning of color (hidden) is similar to the meaning of the word in law? A deceptive appearance means an appearance that has been hidden in order to deceive the people. Color of law is not true law, but are the statutes and codes that do not coincide with or are not influenced by the Constitution (which is natural and common law). What does that say about a colored person?

Look at how “people of color” are deemed “minorities”, from the base word minor meaning “small”. But think about the power of a name. Or the detriment of a label. Especially a label with a double entendre meaning “the state or period of being under the age of full legal responsibility”.

Thus, we study etymology so that we can better understand of our language We study etymology because the English, French, Romans, and Greek have changed the meaning of words through connotative linguistics (also see below) to THEIR benefit. Notice who are called “people of color”: the indigenous people of North, South, and Central America, Africa, and Asia. In other words, the modern day European is the only one that is not considered a person of color. Why is that? The answer relates back to status, ancestry and lineage, and birthright theft. However, you must understand the language to understand the issue at hand.

What are the basic components of etymology?


  • Prefixes come at the beginning of a word. A prefix can identify
  • Number (bi/du= two; octo=eight, etc.…)
  • Direction (post=after; circum=around; pre=before, etc.…)
  • Negation (unlawful= not lawful; illegitimate= not legitimate)


  • The root of a word contains its basic meaning.
  • The root of a word is based on from where the word derived in another language (often Latin or Greek). One root can be can then trace a word back even farther by studying its Indo European roots. This can show you how the cognate is spelled, which is a cognate of the mother tongue of all European and Indus River Valley languages, which is Indo-European. Note that the root of the word etymology is log, which refers to study (from Latin and Greek, -logia, which means to the “study of”. If I trace the root back to its mother tongue and root, leg meaning to collect (a collection of knowledge that you speak on- thus, knowledge is classified as a study of a particular concept or field of knowledge).
  • The Indo-European root can be found at the end of the definition, [in brackets] in your American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (with Indo-European roots). This dictionary contains an appendix (see Appendix I) that gives the meaning and cognates (cousins) of the roots.


  • Suffixes help one to identify the part of speech of the word. (-tion signifies a noun; -ish signifies an adjective; -ly signifies an adverb; etc.…)

Parts of Speech

  • Identifying the meaning of the word by knowing its function in a sentence (is it naming something like a noun? Is it stating an action like a verb? Is it modifying a noun like an adjective? Or does it modify a verb or adjective as an adverb?).

When studying vocabulary, create word or Matrix Maps to keep track of the information for later study. The matrix maps for children and adults (respectively) are below:


Create a matrix map for the following words. If you are unable to identify the PIE root, put the root that you are able to identify. The point is to find the basic, root meaning of the word. The answers can be found on

  1. Witness
  2. Advisory
  3. Consider
  4. Disaster
  5. Spirit
  6. Nationality
  7. Black
  8. Color
  9. Orphan
  10. Allegiance

Compare the etymological meanings to the definitions given in Black’s Law Dictionary the 4th edition. This will prove that etymology and law are two fields that are to be studied simultaneously.