Etymology (i/)[1] is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.[1] By extension, the term "the etymology (of a word)" means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

For Greek—with a long written history—etymologists make use of texts, and texts about the language, to gather knowledge about how words were used during earlier periods and when they entered the language. Etymologists also apply the methods of comparative linguistics to reconstruct information about languages that are too old for any direct information to be available.

By analyzing related languages with a technique known as the comparative method, linguists can make inferences about their shared parent language and its vocabulary. In this way, word roots have been found that can be traced all the way back to the origin of, for instance, the Indo-European language family.

Even though etymological research originally grew from the philological tradition, much current etymological research is done on language families where little or no early documentation is available, such as Uralic and Austronesian.

The word etymology derives from the Greek word ἐτυμολογία (etumología), itself from ἔτυμον (étumon), meaning "true sense", and the suffix -logia, denoting "the study of".[2][3]

In linguistics, the term etymon refers to a word or morpheme (e.g., stem[4] or root[5]) from which a later word derives. For example, the Latin word candidus, which means "white", is the etymon of English candid.

Diagram showing relationships between etymologically-related words


Etymologists apply a number of methods to study the origins of words, some of which are:

  • Philological research. Changes in the form and meaning of the word can be traced with the aid of older texts, if such are available.
  • Making use of dialectological data. The form or meaning of the word might show variations between dialects, which may yield clues about its earlier history.
  • The comparative method. By a systematic comparison of related languages, etymologists may often be able to detect which words derive from their common ancestor language and which were instead later borrowed from another language.
  • The study of semantic change. Etymologists must often make hypotheses about changes in the meaning of particular words. Such hypotheses are tested against the general knowledge of semantic shifts. For example, the assumption of a particular change of meaning may be substantiated by showing that the same type of change has occurred in other languages as well.
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Etimologie
Ænglisc: Wordstǣrcræft
aragonés: Etimolochía
asturianu: Etimoloxía
azərbaycanca: Etimologiya
Bân-lâm-gú: Gí-goân-ha̍k
беларуская: Этымалогія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Этымалёгія
български: Етимология
Boarisch: Etymologie
bosanski: Etimologija
brezhoneg: Etimologiezh
català: Etimologia
čeština: Etymologie
corsu: Etimologia
Cymraeg: Geirdarddiad
dansk: Etymologi
Deutsch: Etymologie
Ελληνικά: Ετυμολογία
español: Etimología
Esperanto: Etimologio
euskara: Etimologia
français: Étymologie
Frysk: Etymology
furlan: Etimologie
Gaeilge: Sanasaíocht
Gàidhlig: Freumh-fhaclachd
galego: Etimoloxía
한국어: 어원학
hrvatski: Etimologija
Bahasa Indonesia: Etimologi
interlingua: Etymologia
íslenska: Orðsifjafræði
italiano: Etimologia
ქართული: ეტიმოლოგია
қазақша: Этимология
kernowek: Etymologyl
Kiswahili: Etimolojia
Kreyòl ayisyen: Etimoloji
kurdî: Bêjenasî
Latina: Etymologia
latviešu: Etimoloģija
Lëtzebuergesch: Etymologie
lietuvių: Etimologija
Limburgs: Etymologie
magyar: Etimológia
македонски: Етимологија
Bahasa Melayu: Etimologi
Nederlands: Etymologie
日本語: 語源学
norsk: Etymologi
norsk nynorsk: Etymologi
Novial: Etimologia
occitan: Etimologia
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Etimologiya
Papiamentu: Etimologico
پښتو: آرپوهنه
Plattdüütsch: Etymologie
polski: Etymologia
português: Etimologia
română: Etimologie
русский: Этимология
саха тыла: Этимология
Scots: Etymology
Seeltersk: Etymologie
sicilianu: Etimoluggìa
Simple English: Etymology
slovenčina: Etymológia
slovenščina: Etimologija
српски / srpski: Етимологија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Etimologija
Basa Sunda: Étimologi
suomi: Etymologia
svenska: Etymologi
Tagalog: Etimolohiya
Türkçe: Etimoloji
українська: Етимологія
vepsän kel’: Etimologii
Tiếng Việt: Từ nguyên học
文言: 語源學
Winaray: Etimolohiya
粵語: 語源學
Zazaki: Etîmolojî
中文: 语源学