What’s in A Word?

4 min readJan 12, 2019


Let’s face it…I am more than a little obsessed with words. Maybe that is a poor choice of a word. I don’t want to be described as a person that is possesed or occupied (as obsessed is from the Latin obsidēre meaning “to beset or occupy” with ob: away + sedēre: to sit). I’d rather be seen as a connoisseur…an aficionado…an etymology buff.

Point being, I love words. Wait, would that make me a philologist? (philo, the Greek root meaning ‘love’ + log, the Greek root meaning ‘word’ + the suffix -ist, meaning ‘a person who’). So what’s love? (the eternal question- in esoteric texts such as the Circle 7 Koran and the Aquarian Gospel, ‘love’ is the Savior of the world.

Can a person really love words? The word love is said to mean “strong predilection or enthusiasm” for something. Like a lover of language, basketball, or in my case, old school and trap music.

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But the etymology of love…its root is said to derive from the Indo-European root leubh, meaning ‘love, care for’. But I have also heard it been said that the Indo-European root represents the sound of a heart beating- lub, lub, lub, lub. I have a feeling that is folk-etymology. My pursuit for the truth about that word continues.

So can I have affection for words? Or do I appreciate them? From the Middle English appreisen, from Old French aprisier, from Late Latin appretiāre. The prefix ap- is an assimilated version of ad meaning ‘toward’+ pretium meaning ‘price’. It is related to the word appraise. Appraise is to estimate the price of something, and appreciate is raise in price and value over time, but it initially meant to set the price, akin to appraise. Connotatively, the sense shifted to mean ‘esteemed and highly valued’. So the real question is- can a person value words?

I think so.

Did you know that a study conducted in 1930s (and later one in the 80s and 90s) showed that one’s level of success is directly connected their vocabulary? Vocabulary, from the Latin word vocābulārium, neuter of vocābulārius, meaning ‘of vocabulary’, refers to “a list of words” (see the Latin word vocāre meaning ‘to call’). What words can you call out in conversation? While there are words that have similar or synonymous (syn: ‘together, same’ + onym: ‘name’ + ous: ‘adjective ending’) meanings, no two words mean the same thing. So if a person has access to a range of words, they can speak with greater specificity and conciseness about a given topic.

(*sidenote: The best way to increase your vocabulary is by reading.*)

I value words because my usage of them can help increase my value.

But in order for this to happen, you would need to be able to analyze words. Analyze means to break something down, or to dissect into many pieces. It comes from the Greek analysis “solution of a problem by breaking it down,” literally “a breaking up, a loosening, releasing,” noun of action from analyein “unloose, release, set free; to loose a ship from its moorings,” from ana ‘throughout’ + lysis “a loosening,” from lyein “to unfasten”. To analyze something, you must know its components. That is, you must know what’s in a word.

So what’s in a word?

A word is comprised of several parts. Phonemes, graphemes, morphemes. Labials, dentals, gutturals. Lax and tense vowels. Primary, secondary, and sometimes tertiary syllables. Alphabetic, logographic, or abugida script.

And that’s just how we speak and write words. What about the semantics of words? Meanings and usages. Shifts in meaning. Denotations. Connotations. Generalizations. Restrictions. Changes in form. Metathesis. Epenthesis. Syncope. Apocope.

And let’s talk about syntax. Nouns. Verbs. Adjectives. Gerunds. Prepositonal Phrases. Adverbial Clauses.

Words about words. Fascinatingly fun. For me anyway.

Fun. Another ill-choosen word. A quick go-to used to describe “a good time” or “that which is enjoyable”.

Fun is said to come from ME fonne, ‘fool’. My appreciation for words is not foolish.

It is constructive. Beneficial. Intriguing, yet candid and forthright. Hmmm, not candid, which means ‘white’ (Latin candidus). Words aren’t colors. Neither are people. But that’s another conversation.

Study words. Absorb them. Be an enthusiast (Latin enthusiasmus, from the Greek enthousiasmos, enthousiazein, “to be divinely inspired”; see en: ‘in’ + theos: God). Be sanctified by the word. Be blessed by the word. In the word’s name we say, Amen.