The History Of Words Sunday

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       Ever been curious about the word ‘Human’ and its origins? Afterall, it encompasses us all in its definition. I found during my research that some people believe that this word is much older than the mainstream etymologists claim. However, from what I read they say that it goes back to a meaning of color and how people throughout history used it to justify a racist view toward certain groups of people—I decided to leave all of that out of my post. You can look it up on your own if you wish. To me, this is a fantastic word. Who was the first person to come up with a word that describes us all in a few letters that would stand the test of time and push through history to remain the dominant word for representing an entire species, incredible?

 

human (adj.)

mid-15c., humain, humaigne, “human,” from Old French humain, umain (adj.) “of or belonging to man” (12c.), from Latin humanus “of man, human,” also “humane, philanthropic, kind, gentle, polite; learned, refined, civilized.” This is in part from PIE *(dh)ghomon-, literally “earthling, earthly being,” as opposed to the gods (from root *dhghem- “earth”), but there is no settled explanation of the sound changes involved. Compare Hebrew adam “man,” from adamah “ground.” Cognate with Old Lithuanian žmuo (accusative žmuni) “man, male person.”

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Human interest is from 1824. Human rights attested by 1680s; human being by 1690s. Human relations is from 1916; human resources attested by 1907, American English, apparently originally among social Christians and based on natural resources. Human comedy “sum of human activities” translates French comédie humaine (Balzac); see comedy.

 

Etymology and definition

In common usage, the word “human” generally refers to the only extant species of the genus Homo—anatomically and behaviorally modern Homo sapiens.

In scientific terms, the meanings of “hominid” and “hominin” have changed during the recent decades with advances in the discovery and study of the fossil ancestors of modern humans. The previously clear boundary between humans and apes has blurred, resulting in now acknowledging the hominids as encompassing multiple species, and Homo and close relatives since the split from chimpanzees as the only hominins. There is also a distinction between anatomically modern humans and Archaic Homo sapiens, the earliest fossil members of the species.

The English adjective human is a Middle English loanword from Old French humain, ultimately from Latin hūmānus, the adjective form of homō “man.” The word’s use as a noun (with a plural: humans) dates to the 16th century. The native English term man can refer to the species generally (a synonym for humanity) as well as to human males, or individuals of either sex (though this latter form is less common in contemporary English).

The species binomial “Homo sapiens” was coined by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae.[16] The generic name “Homo” is a learned 18th-century derivation from Latin homō “man,” ultimately “earthly being” (Old Latin hemō a cognate to Old English guma “man”, from PIE dʰǵʰemon-, meaning “earth” or “ground”). The species-name “sapiens” means “wise” or “sapient”. Note that the Latin word homo refers to humans of either gender, and that “sapiens” is the singular form (while there is no such word as “sapien”).

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About G.Edward Smith

A stranger in a strange land...
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