On the Study of Words
Richard C Trench

Part 4 out of 4

difference between them. [Footnote: Thus De Quincey (_Letters to a
Young Man whose Education has been neglected_): 'All languages tend to
clear themselves of synonyms, as intellectual culture advances; the
superfluous words being taken up and appropriated by new shades and
combinations of thought evolved in the progress of society. And long
before this appropriation is fixed and petrified, as it were, into the
acknowledged vocabulary of the language, an insensible _clinamen_ (to
borrow a Lucretian word) prepares the way for it. Thus, for instance,
before Mr. Wordsworth had unveiled the great philosophic distinction
between the powers of _fancy_ and _imagination_, the two words had
begun to diverge from each other, the first being used to express a
faculty somewhat capricious and exempted from law, the other to express
a faculty more self-determined. When, therefore, it was at length
perceived, that under an apparent unity of meaning there lurked a real
dualism, and for philosophic purposes it was necessary that this
distinction should have its appropriate expression, this necessity was
met half way by the _clinamen_ which had already affected the popular
usage of the words.' Compare what Coleridge had before said on the same
matter, _Biogr. Lit_. vol. i. p. 90; and what Ruskin, _Modern Painters_
part 3, Section 2, ch. 3, has said since. It is to Coleridge that we
owe the word 'to desynonymize' (_Biogr. Lit_. p. 87)--which is
certainly preferable to Professor Grote's 'despecificate.' Purists
indeed will object that it is of hybrid formation, the prefix Latin,
the body of the word Greek; but for all this it may very well stand
till a better is offered. Coleridge's own contributions, direct and
indirect, in this province are perhaps more in number and in value than
those of any other English writer; thus to him we owe the
disentanglement of 'fanaticism' and 'enthusiasm' (_Lit. Rem_. vol. ii.
p. 365); of 'keenness' and 'subtlety' (_Table-Talk_, p. 140); of
'poetry' and 'poesy' (_Lit. Rem_. vol. i. p. 219); of 'analogy' and
'metaphor' (_Aids to Reflection_, 1825, p. 198); and that on which he
himself laid so great a stress, of 'reason' and 'understanding.'] This
is but one example, an illustrious one indeed, of what has been going
forward in innumerable pairs of words. Thus in Wiclif's time and long
after, there seems to have been no difference recognized between a
'famine' and a 'hunger'; they both expressed the outward fact of a
scarcity of food. It was a genuine gain when, leaving to 'famine' this
meaning, by 'hunger' was expressed no longer the outward fact, but the
inward sense of the fact. Other pairs of words between which a
distinction is recognized now which was not recognized some centuries
ago, are the following: 'to clarify' and 'to glorify'; 'to admire' and
'to wonder'; 'to convince' and 'to convict'; 'reign' and 'kingdom';
'ghost' and 'spirit'; 'merit' and 'demerit'; 'mutton' and 'sheep';
'feminine' and 'effeminate'; 'mortal' and 'deadly'; 'ingenious' and
'ingenuous'; 'needful' and 'needy'; 'voluntary' and 'wilful.'
[footnote: For the exact difference between these, and other pairs or
larger groups of words, see my _Select Glossary_.]

A multitude of words in English are still waiting for a similar
discrimination. Many in due time will obtain it, and the language prove
so much the richer thereby; for certainly if Coleridge had right when
he affirmed that 'every new term expressing a fact or a difference not
precisely or adequately expressed by any other word in the same
language, is a new organ of thought for the mind that has learned
it.' [footnote: _Church and State_, p. 200.] we are justified in
regarding these distinctions which are still waiting to be made as so
much reversionary wealth in our mother tongue. Thus how real an ethical
gain would it be, how much clearness would it bring into men's thoughts
and actions, if the distinction which exists in Latin between
'vindicta' and 'ultio,' that the first is a moral act, the just
punishment of the sinner by his God, of the criminal by the judge, the
other an act in which the self-gratification of one who counts himself
injured or offended is sought, could in like manner be fully
established (vaguely felt it already is) between our 'vengeance' and
'revenge'; so that 'vengeance' (with the verb 'to avenge') should never
be ascribed except to God, or to men acting as the executors of his
righteous doom; while all retaliation to which not zeal for his
righteousness, but men's own sinful passions have given the impulse and
the motive, should be termed 'revenge.' As it now is, the moral
disapprobation which cleaves, and cleaves justly, to 'revenge,' is
oftentimes transferred almost unconsciously to 'vengeance'; while yet
without vengeance it is impossible to conceive in a world so full of
evil-doing any effectual assertion of righteousness, any moral
government whatever.

The causes mentioned above, namely that our modern English, Teutonic in
its main structure, yet draws so large a portion of its verbal wealth
from the Latin, and has further welcomed, and found place for, many
later accessions, these causes have together effected that we possess a
great many duplicates, not to speak of triplicates, or of such a
quintuplicate as that which I adduced just now, where the Teutonic,
French, Italian, Latin, and Greek had each yielded us a word. Let me
mention a few duplicate substantives, Old-English and Latin: thus we
have 'shepherd' and 'pastor'; 'feeling' and 'sentiment'; 'handbook' and
'manual'; 'ship' and 'nave'; 'anger' and 'ire'; 'grief' and 'sorrow';
'kingdom,' 'reign,' and 'realm'; 'love' and 'charity'; 'feather' and
'plume'; 'forerunner' and 'precursor'; 'foresight' and 'providence';
'freedom' and 'liberty'; 'bitterness' and 'acerbity'; 'murder' and
'homicide'; 'moons' and 'lunes.' Sometimes, in theology and science
especially, we have gone both to the Latin and to the Greek, and drawn
the same word from them both: thus 'deist' and 'theist'; 'numeration'
and 'arithmetic'; 'revelation' and 'apocalypse'; 'temporal' and
'chronic'; 'compassion' and 'sympathy'; 'supposition' and 'hypothesis';
'transparent' and 'diaphanous'; 'digit' and 'dactyle.' But to return to
the Old-English and Latin, the main factors of our tongue. Besides
duplicate substantives, we have duplicate verbs, such as 'to whiten'
and 'to blanch'; 'to soften' and 'to mollify'; 'to unload' and 'to
exonerate'; 'to hide' and 'to conceal'; with many more. Duplicate
adjectives also are numerous, as 'shady' and 'umbrageous'; 'unreadable'
and 'illegible'; 'unfriendly' and 'inimical'; 'almighty' and
'omnipotent'; 'wholesome' and 'salubrious'; 'unshunnable' and
'inevitable.' Occasionally our modern English, not adopting the Latin
substantive, has admitted duplicate adjectives; thus 'burden' has not
merely 'burdensome' but also 'onerous,' while yet 'onus' has found no
place with us; 'priest' has 'priestly' and 'sacerdotal'; 'king' has
'kingly,' 'regal,' which is purely Latin, and 'royal,' which is Latin
distilled through the French. 'Bodily' and 'corporal,' 'boyish' and
'puerile,' 'fiery' and 'igneous,' 'wooden' and 'ligneous,' 'worldly'
and 'mundane,' 'bloody' and 'sanguine,' 'watery' and 'aqueous,'
'fearful' and 'timid,' 'manly' and 'virile,' 'womanly' and 'feminine,'
'sunny' and 'solar,' 'starry' and 'stellar,' 'yearly' and 'annual,'
'weighty' and 'ponderous,' may all be placed in the same list. Nor are
these more than a handful of words out of the number which might be
adduced. You would find both pleasure and profit in enlarging these
lists, and, as far as you are able, making them gradually complete.

If we look closely at words which have succeeded in thus maintaining
their ground side by side, and one no less than the other, we shall
note that in almost every instance they have little by little asserted
for themselves separate spheres of meaning, have in usage become more
or less distinct. Thus we use 'shepherd' almost always in its primary
meaning, keeper of sheep; while 'pastor' is exclusively used in the
tropical sense, one that feeds the flock of God; at the same time the
language having only the one adjective, 'pastoral,' that is of
necessity common to both. 'Love' and 'charity' are used in our
Authorized Version of Scripture promiscuously, and out of the sense of
their equivalence are made to represent one and the same Greek word;
but in modern use 'charity' has come predominantly to signify one
particular manifestation of love, the ministry to the bodily needs of
others, 'love' continuing to express the affection of the soul. 'Ship'
remains in its literal meaning, while 'nave' has become a symbolic term
used in sacred architecture alone. 'Kingdom' is concrete, as the
'kingdom' of Great Britain; 'reign' is abstract, the 'reign' of Queen
Victoria. An 'auditor' and a 'hearer' are now, though they were not
once, altogether different from one another. 'Illegible' is applied to
the handwriting, 'unreadable' to the subject-matter written; a man
writes an 'illegible' hand; he has published an 'unreadable' book.
'Foresight' is ascribed to men, but' providence' for the most part
designates, as _pronoia_ also came to do, the far-looking wisdom of God,
by which He governs and graciously cares for his people. It becomes
boys to be 'boyish,' but not men to be 'puerile.' 'To blanch' is to
withdraw colouring matter: we 'blanch' almonds or linen; or the cheek
by the withdrawing of the blood is 'blanched' with fear; but we
'whiten' a wall, not by withdrawing some other colour, but by the
superinducing of white; thus 'whited sepulchres.' When we 'palliate'
our own or other people's faults, we do not seek 'to cloke' them
altogether, but only to extenuate the guilt of them in part.

It might be urged that there was a certain preparedness in these words
to separate off in their meaning from one another, inasmuch as they
originally belonged to different stocks; and this may very well have
assisted; but we find the same process at work where original
difference of stock can have supplied no such assistance. 'Astronomy'
and 'astrology' are both words drawn from the Greek, nor is there any
reason beforehand why the second should not be in as honourable use as
the first; for it is the _reason_, as 'astronomy' the _law_, of the
stars. [footnote: So entirely was any determining reason wanting, that
for some while it was a question _which_ word should obtain the
honourable employment, and it seemed as if 'astrology' and 'astrologer'
would have done so, as this extract from Bishop Hooper makes abundantly
plain (_Early Writings_, Parker Society, p. 331): 'The _astrologer_ is
he that knoweth the course and motions of the heavens and teacheth the
same; which is a virtue if it pass not its bounds, and become of an
astrologer an _astronomer_, who taketh upon him to give judgment and
censure of these motions and courses of the heavens, what they
prognosticate and destiny unto the creature.'] But seeing there is a
true and a false science of the stars, both needing words to utter them,
it has come to pass that in our later use, 'astrology' designates
always that pretended science of imposture, which affecting to submit
the moral freedom of men to the influences of the heavenly bodies,
prognosticates future events from the position of these, as contrasted
with 'astronomy' that true science which investigates the laws of the
heavenly bodies in their relations to one another and to the planet
upon which we dwell.

As these are both from the Greek, so 'despair' and 'diffidence' are
both, though the second more directly than the first, from the Latin.
At a period not very long past the difference between them was hardly
appreciable; one was hardly stronger than the other. If in one the
absence of all _hope_, in the other that of all faith, was implied. In
_The Pilgrim's Progress_, a book with which every English schoolmaster
should be familiar, 'Mistress _Diffidence_' is 'Giant _Despair's_' wife,
and not a whit behind him in deadly enmity to the pilgrims; even as
Jeremy Taylor speaks of the impenitent sinner's '_diffidence_ in the
hour of death,' meaning, as the context plainly shows, his despair. But
to what end two words for one and the same thing? And thus 'diffidence'
did not retain that energy of meaning which it had at the first, but
little by little assumed a more mitigated sense, (Hobbes speaks of
'men's diffidence,' meaning their distrust 'of one another,') till it
has come now to signify a becoming distrust of ourselves, a humble
estimate of our own powers, with only a slight intimation, as in the
later use of the Latin 'verecundia,' that perhaps this distrust is
carried too far.

Again, 'interference' and 'interposition' are both from the Latin; and
here too there is no anterior necessity that they should possess those
different shades of meaning which actually they have obtained among
us;--the Latin verbs which form their latter halves being about as
strong one as the other. [Footnote: The word _interference_ is a
derivative from the verb _ferire_ to strike, which is certainly
stronger in meaning than _ponere_, to place.] And yet in our practical
use, 'interference' is something offensive; it is the pushing in of
himself between two parties on the part of a third, who was not asked,
and is not thanked for his pains, and who, as the feeling of the word
implies, had no business there; while 'interposition' is employed to
express the friendly peace-making mediation of one whom the act well
became, and who even if he was not specially invited thereunto, is
still thanked for what he has done. How real an increase is it in the
wealth and efficiency of a language thus to have discriminated such
words as these; and to be able to express acts outwardly the same by
different words, according as we would praise or blame the temper and
spirit out of which they sprung. [Footnote: If in the course of time
distinctions are thus created, and if this is the tendency of language,
yet they are also sometimes, though far less often, obliterated. Thus
the fine distinction between 'yea' and 'yes,' 'nay' and 'no,' once
existing in English, has quite disappeared. 'Yea' and 'Nay,' in Wiclif
s time, and a good deal later, were the answers to questions framed in
the affirmative. 'Will he come?' To this it would have been replied,
'Yea' or 'Nay,' as the case might be. But 'Will he not come?'--to this
the answer would have been, 'Yes,' or 'No.' Sir Thomas More finds fault
with Tyndale, that in his translation of the Bible he had not observed
this distinction, which was evidently therefore going out even then,
that is in the reign of Henry VIII., and shortly after it was quite

Take now some words not thus desynonymized by usage only, but having a
fundamental etymological distinction,--one, however, which it would be
easy to overlook, and which, so long as we dwell on the surface of the
word, we shall overlook; and try whether we shall not be gainers by
bringing out the distinction into clear consciousness. Here are
'arrogant,' 'presumptuous,' and 'insolent'; we often use them
promiscuously; yet let us examine them a little more closely, and ask
ourselves, as soon as we have traced the lines of demarcation between
them, whether we are not now in possession of three distinct thoughts,
instead of a single confused one. He is 'arrogant' who claims the
observance and homage of others as his due (ad rogo); who does not wait
for them to offer, but himself demands all this; or who, having right
to one sort of observance, claims another to which he has no right.
Thus, it was 'arrogance' in Nebuchadnezzar, when he required that all
men should fall down before the image which he had reared. He, a man,
was claiming for man's work the homage which belonged only to God. But
one is 'presumptuous' who _takes_ things to himself _before_ he has
acquired any title to them (prae sumo); as the young man who already
usurps the place of the old, the learner who speaks with the authority
of the teacher. By and by all this may very justly be his, but it is
'presumption' to anticipate it now. 'Insolent' means properly no more
than unusual; to act 'insolently' is to act unusually. The offensive
meaning which 'insolent' has acquired rests upon the sense that there
is a certain well-understood rule of society, a recognized standard of
moral and social behaviour, to which each of its members should conform.
The 'insolent' man is one who violates this rule, who breaks through
this order, acting in an _unaccustomed_ manner. The same sense of the
orderly being also the moral, is implied in 'irregular'; a man of
'irregular' is for us a man of immoral life; and yet more strongly in
Latin, which has but one word (mores) for customs and morals.

Or consider the following words: 'to hate,' 'to loathe,' 'to detest,'
'to abhor'. It would be safe to say that our blessed Lord 'hated' to
see his Father's house profaned, when, the zeal of that house consuming
Him, He drove forth in anger the profaners from it (John ii. 15); He
'loathed' the lukewarmness of the Laodiceans, when He threatened to
spue them out of his mouth (Rev. iii. 16); He 'detested' the hypocrisy
of the Pharisees and Scribes, when He affirmed and proclaimed their sin,
and uttered those eight woes against them (Matt, xxiii.); He 'abhorred'
the evil suggestions of Satan, when He bade the Tempter to get behind
Him, shrinking from him as one would shrink from a hissing serpent in
his path.

Sometimes words have no right at all to be considered synonyms, and yet
are continually used one for the other; having through this constant
misemployment more need than synonyms themselves to be discriminated.
Thus, what confusion is often made between 'genuine' and 'authentic';
what inaccuracy exists in their employment. And yet the distinction is
a very plain one. A 'genuine' work is one written by the author whose
name it bears; an 'authentic' work is one which relates truthfully the
matters of which it treats. For example, the apocryphal _Gospel of St.
Thomas_ is neither 'genuine' nor 'authentic.' It is not 'genuine' for
St. Thomas did not write it; it is not 'authentic,' for its contents
are mainly fables and lies. _The History of the Alexandrian War_, which
passes under Caesar's name, is not 'genuine,' for he did not write it;
it is 'authentic,' being in the main a truthful record of the events
which it professes to relate. Thiers' _History of the French Empire_,
on the contrary, is 'genuine,' for he is certainly the author, but very
far indeed from 'authentic '; while Thucydides' _History of the
Peloponnesian War_ is both 'authentic' and 'genuine.' [Footnote: On
this matter see the _New English Dictionary_ (s. v. _authentic_). It
will there be found that the prevailing sense of 'authentic' is
reliable, trustworthy, of established credit; it being often used by
writers on Christian Evidences in contradistinction to 'genuine.'
However, the Dictionary shows us that careful writers use the word in
the sense of 'genuine,' of undisputed origin, not forged, or
apocryphal: there is a citation bearing witness to this meaning from
Paley. The Greek [Greek: authentikos] meant 'of firsthand authority,

You will observe that in most of the words just adduced, I have sought
to refer their usage to their etymologies, to follow the guidance of
these, and by the same aid to trace the lines of demarcation which
divide them. For I cannot but think it an omission in a very
instructive little volume upon synonyms edited by the late Archbishop
Whately, and a partial diminution of its usefulness, that in the
valuation of words reference is so seldom made to their etymologies,
the writer relying almost entirely on present usage and the tact and
instinct of a cultivated mind for the appreciation of them aright. The
accomplished author (or authoress) of this book indeed justifies this
omission on the ground that a work on synonyms has to do with the
present relative value of words, not with their roots and derivations;
and, further, that a reference to these often brings in what is only a
disturbing force in the process, tending to confuse rather than to
clear. But while it is quite true that words will often ride very
slackly at anchor on their etymologies, will be borne hither and
thither by the shifting tides and currents of usage, yet are they for
the most part still holden by them. Very few have broken away and
drifted from their moorings altogether. A 'novelist,' or writer of
_new_ tales in the present day, is very different from a 'novelist' or
upholder of _new_ theories in politics and religion, of two hundred
years ago; yet the idea of _newness_ is common to them both. A
'naturalist' was once a denier of revealed truth, of any but _natural_
religion; he is now an investigator, often a devout one, of _nature_
and of her laws; yet the word has remained true to its etymology all
the while. A 'methodist' was formerly a follower of a certain 'method'
of philosophical induction, now of a 'method' in the fulfilment of
religious duties; but in either case 'method' or orderly progression,
is the central idea of the word. Take other words which have changed or
modified their meaning--'plantations,' for instance, which were once
colonies of men (and indeed we still 'plant' a colony), but are now
nurseries of trees, and you will find the same to hold good. 'Ecstasy'
_was_ madness; it _is_ intense delight; but has in no wise thereby
broken with the meaning from which it started, since it is the nature
alike of madness and of joy to set men out of and beside themselves.

And even when the fact is not so obvious as in these cases, the
etymology of a word exercises an unconscious influence upon its uses,
oftentimes makes itself felt when least expected, so that a word, after
seeming quite to have forgotten, will after longest wanderings return
to it again. And one main device of great artists in language, such as
would fain evoke the latent forces of their native tongue, will very
often consist in reconnecting words by their use of them with their
original derivation, in not suffering them to forget themselves and
their origin, though they would. How often and with what signal effect
does Milton compel a word to return to its original source, 'antiquam
exquirere matrem'; while yet how often the fact that he is doing this
passes even by scholars unobserved. [Footnote: Everyone who desires, as
he reads Milton, thoroughly to understand him, will do well to be ever
on the watch for such recalling, upon his part, of words to their
primitive sense; and as often as he detects, to make accurate note of
it for his own use, and, so far as he is a teacher, for the use of
others. Take a few examples out of many: 'afflicted' (_P. L._ i. 186);
'alarmed' (_P. L._ iv. 985); 'ambition' (_P. L._ i. 262; _S. A._ 247);
'astonished' (_P. L._ i. 266); 'chaos' (_P. L._ vi. 55); 'diamond' (_P.
L._ vi. 364); 'emblem' (_P. L._ iv. 703); 'empiric' (_P. L._ v. 440);
'engine' (_P. L._ i. 750); 'entire' (= integer, _P. L._ ix. 292);
'extenuate' (_P. L._ x. 645); 'illustrate' (_P. L._ v. 739); 'implicit'
(_P. L._ vii. 323); 'indorse' (_P. R._ iii. 329); 'infringe' (_P. R._ i.
62); 'mansion' (_Com_. 2); 'moment' (_P. L._ x. 45); 'oblige' (_P. L._
ix. 980); 'person' (_P. L._ x. 156); 'pomp' (_P. L._ viii. 61);
'sagacious' (_P. L._ x. 28l); 'savage' (_P. L._ iv. l72); 'scene' (_P.
L._ iv. 140;) 'secular' (_S. A._ 1707); 'secure' (_P. L._ vi. 638);
'seditious' (_P. L._ vi. 152); 'transact' (_P. L._ vi. 286); 'voluble'
(_P. L._ ix. 436). We may note in Jeremy Taylor a similar reduction of
words to their origins; thus, 'insolent' for unusual, 'metal' for mine,
'irritation' for a making vain, 'extant' for standing out (applied to a
bas-relief), 'contrition' for bruising ('the _contrition_ of the
serpent'), 'probable' for worthy of approval ('a _probable_ doctor').
The author of the excellent _Lexique de la Langue de Corneille_ claims
the same merit for him and for his great contemporaries or immediate
successors: Faire rendre aux mots tout ce qu'ils peuvent donner, en
varier habilement les acceptions et les nuances, les ramener à leur
origine, les retremper fréquemment à leur source étymologique,
constituait un des secrets principaux des grands écrivains du dix-
septième siècle. It is this putting of old words in a new light, and to
a new use, though that will be often the oldest of all, on which Horace
sets so high a store:
Dixeris egregie, notum si callida verbum
Reddiderit junctura novum; and not less Montaigne: 'The
handling and utterance of fine wits is that which sets off a language;
not so much by innovating it, as by putting it to more vigorous and
various service, and by straining, bending, and adapting it to this.
They do not create words, but they enrich their own, and give them
weight and signification by the uses they put them to.']

Moreover, even if all this were not so, yet the past history of a word,
a history that must needs _start_ from its derivation, how soon soever
this may be left behind, can hardly be disregarded, when we are seeking
to ascertain its present value. What Barrow says is quite true, that
'knowing the primitive meaning of words can seldom or never _determine_
their meaning anywhere, they often in common use declining from it';
but though it cannot 'determine,' it can as little be omitted or
forgotten, when this determination is being sought. A man may be wholly
different now from what once he was; yet not the less to know his
antecedents is needful, before we can ever perfectly understand his
present self; and the same holds good with words.

There is a moral gain which synonyms will sometimes yield us, enabling
us, as they do, to say exactly what we intend, without exaggerating or
putting more into our speech than we feel in our hearts, allowing us to
be at once courteous and truthful. Such moral advantage there is, for
example, in the choice which we have between the words 'to felicitate'
and 'to congratulate,' for the expressing of our sentiments and wishes
in regard of the good fortune that may happen to others. To
'felicitate' another is to wish him happiness, without affirming that
his happiness is also ours. Thus, out of that general goodwill with
which we ought to regard all, we might 'felicitate' one almost a
stranger to us; nay, more, I can honestly 'felicitate' one on his
appointment to a post, or attainment of an honour, even though _I_ may
not consider him the fittest to have obtained it, though I should have
been glad if another had done so; I can desire and hope, that is, that
it may bring all joy and happiness to him. But I could not, without a
violation of truth, 'congratulate' him, or that stranger whose
prosperity awoke no lively delight in my heart; for when I
'congratulate' a person (congratulor), I declare that I am sharer in
his joy, that what has rejoiced him has rejoiced also me. We have all,
I dare say, felt, even without having analysed the distinction between
the words, that 'congratulate' is a far heartier word than
'felicitate,' and one with which it much better becomes us to welcome
the good fortune of a friend; and the analysis, as you perceive,
perfectly justifies the feeling. 'Felicitations' are little better than
compliments; 'congratulations' are the expression of a genuine sympathy
and joy.

Let me illustrate the importance of synonymous distinctions by another
example, by the words, 'to invent' and 'to discover'; or 'invention'
and 'discovery.' How slight may seem to us the distinction between them,
even if we see any at all. Yet try them a little closer, try them,
which is the true proof, by aid of examples, and you will perceive that
they can by no means be indifferently used; that, on the contrary, a
great truth lies at the root of their distinction. Thus we speak of the
'invention' of printing, of the 'discovery' of America. Shift these
words, and speak, for instance, of the 'invention' of America; you feel
at once how unsuitable the language is. And why? Because Columbus did
not make that to be, which before him had not been. America was there,
before he revealed it to European eyes; but that which before _was_, he
_showed_ to be; he withdrew the veil which hitherto had concealed it;
he 'discovered' it. So too we speak of Newton 'discovering' the law of
gravitation; he drew aside the veil whereby men's eyes were hindered
from perceiving it, but the law had existed from the beginning of the
world, and would have existed whether he or any other man had traced it
or no; neither was it in any way affected by the discovery of it which
he had made. But Gutenberg, or whoever else it may be to whom the
honour belongs, 'invented' printing; he made something to be, which
hitherto was not. In like manner Harvey 'discovered' the circulation of
the blood; but Watt 'invented' the steam-engine; and we speak, with a
true distinction, of the 'inventions' of Art, the 'discoveries' of
Science. In the very highest matters of all, it is deeply important
that we be aware of and observe the distinction. In religion there have
been many 'discoveries,' but (in true religion I mean) no 'inventions.'
Many discoveries--but God in each case the discoverer; He draws aside
the veils, one veil after another, that have hidden Him from men; the
discovery or revelation is from Himself, for no man by searching has
found out God; and therefore, wherever anything offers itself as an
'invention' in matters of religion, it proclaims itself a lie,--as are
all self-devised worships, all religions which man projects from his
own heart. Just that is known of God which He is pleased to make known,
and no more; and men's recognizing or refusing to recognize in no way
affects it. They may deny or may acknowledge Him, but He continues the

As involving in like manner a distinction which cannot safely be lost
sight of, how important the difference, the existence of which is
asserted by our possession of the two words, 'to apprehend' and 'to
comprehend' with their substantives 'apprehension' and 'comprehension.'
For indeed we 'apprehend' many truths, which we do not 'comprehend.'
The great mysteries of our faith--the doctrine, for instance, of the
Holy Trinity, we lay hold upon it, we hang on it, our souls live by it;
but we do not '_com_prehend' it, that is, we do not take it all in; for
it is a necessary attribute of God that He is _incomprehensible_; if He
were not so, either He would not be God, or the Being that comprehended
Him would be God also (Matt, xi. 27). But it also belongs to the idea
of God that He may be '_ap_prehended' though not '_com_prehended' by
his reasonable creatures; He has made them to know Him, though not to
know Him _all_, to '_ap_prehend' though not to '_com_prehend' Him. We
may transfer with profit the same distinction to matters not quite so
solemn. Thus I read Goldsmith's _Traveller_, or one of Gay's _Fables_,
and I feel that I 'comprehend' it;--I do not believe, that is, that
there was anything stirring in the poet's mind or intention, which I
have not in the reading reproduced in my own. But I read _Hamlet_, or
_King Lear_: here I 'apprehend' much; I have wondrous glimpses of the
poet's intention and aim; but I do not for an instant suppose that I
have 'comprehended,' taken in, that is, all that was in his mind in the
writing; or that his purpose does not stretch in manifold directions
far beyond the range of my vision; and I am sure there are few who
would not shrink from affirming, at least if they at all realized the
force of the words they were using, that they 'comprehended
'Shakespeare; however much they may 'apprehend' in him.

How often 'opposite' and 'contrary' are used as if there was no
difference between them, and yet there is a most essential one, one
which perhaps we may best express by saying that 'opposites' complete,
while 'contraries' exclude one another. Thus the most 'opposite' moral
or mental characteristics may meet in one and the same person, while to
say that the most 'contrary' did so, would be manifestly absurd; for
example, a soldier may be at once prudent and bold, for these are
opposites; he could not be at once prudent and rash, for these are
contraries. We may love and fear at the same time and the same person;
we pray in the Litany that we may love and dread God, the two being
opposites, and thus the complements of one another; but to pray that we
might love and hate would be as illogical as it would be impious, for
these are contraries, and could no more co-exist together than white
and black, hot and cold, in the same subject at the same time. Or to
take another illustration, sweet and sour are 'opposites,' sweet and
bitter are 'contraries,' [Footnote: See Coleridge, _Church and State_,
p. 18.] It will be seen then that there is always a certain relation
between 'opposites'; they unfold themselves, though in different
directions, from the same root, as the positive and negative forces of
electricity, and in their very opposition uphold and sustain one
another; while 'contraries' encounter one another from quarters quite
diverse, and one only subsists in the exact degree that it puts out of
working the other. Surely this distinction cannot be an unimportant one
either in the region of ethics or elsewhere.

It will happen continually, that rightly to distinguish between two
words will throw a flood of light upon some controversy in which they
play a principal part, nay, may virtually put an end to that
controversy altogether. Thus when Hobbes, with a true instinct, would
have laid deep the foundations of atheism and despotism together,
resolving all right into might, and not merely robbing men, if he could,
of the power, but denying to them the duty, of obeying God rather than
man, his sophisms could stand only so long as it was not perceived that
'compulsion' and 'obligation,' with which he juggled, conveyed two
ideas perfectly distinct, indeed disparate, in kind. Those sophisms of
his collapsed at once, so soon as it was perceived that what pertained
to one had been transferred to the other by a mere confusion of terms
and cunning sleight of hand, the former being a _physical_, the latter
a _moral_, necessity.

There is indeed no such fruitful source of confusion and mischief as
this--two words are tacitly assumed as equivalent, and therefore
exchangeable, and then that which may be assumed, and with truth, of
one, is assumed also of the other, of which it is not true. Thus, for
instance, it often is with 'instruction' and 'education,' Cannot we
'instruct' a child, it is asked, cannot we teach it geography, or
arithmetic, or grammar, quite independently of the Catechism, or even
of the Scriptures? No doubt you may; but can you 'educate' without
bringing moral and spiritual forces to bear upon the mind and
affections of the child? And you must not be permitted to transfer the
admissions which we freely make in regard of 'instruction,' as though
they also held good in respect of 'education.' For what is 'education'?
Is it a furnishing of a man from without with knowledge and facts and
information? or is it a drawing forth from within and a training of the
spirit, of the true humanity which is latent in him? Is the process of
education the filling of the child's mind, as a cistern is filled with
waters brought in buckets from some other source? or the opening up for
that child of fountains which are already there? Now if we give any
heed to the word 'education,' and to the voice which speaks therein, we
shall not long be in doubt. Education must educe, being from 'educare,'
which is but another form of 'educere'; and that is to draw out, and
not to put in. 'To draw out' what is in the child, the immortal spirit
which is there, this is the end of education; and so much the word
declares. The putting in is indeed most needful, that is, the child
must be instructed as well as educated, and 'instruction' means
furnishing; but not instructed instead of educated. He must first have
powers awakened in him, measures of value given him; and then he will
know how to deal with the facts of this outward world; then instruction
in these will profit him; but not without the higher training, still
less as a substitute for it.

It has occasionally happened that the question which out of two
apparent synonyms should be adopted in some important state-document
has been debated with no little earnestness and passion; as at the
great English Revolution of 1688, when the two Houses of Parliament
were at issue whether it should be declared of James II, that he had
'abdicated,' or had 'deserted,' the throne. This might seem at first
sight a mere strife about words, and yet, in reality, serious
constitutional questions were involved in the debate. The Commons
insisted on the word 'abdicated,' not as wishing to imply that in any
act of the late king there had been an official renunciation of the
crown, which would have been manifestly untrue; but because 'abdicated'
in their minds alone expressed the fact that James had so borne himself
as virtually to have entirely renounced, disowned, and relinquished the
crown, to have forfeited and separated himself from it, and from any
right to it for ever; while 'deserted' would have seemed to leave room
and an opening for a return, which they were determined to declare for
ever excluded; as were it said of a husband that he had 'deserted' his
wife, or of a soldier that he had 'deserted' his colours, this language
would imply not only that he might, but that he was bound to return.
The speech of Lord Somers on the occasion is a masterly specimen of
synonymous discrimination, and an example of the uses in highest
matters of state to which it may be turned. As little was it a mere
verbal struggle when, at the restoration a good many years ago of our
interrupted relations with Persia, Lord Palmerston insisted that the
Shah should address the Queen of England not as 'Maleketh' but as
'Padischah,' refusing to receive letters which wanted this

Let me press upon you, in conclusion, some few of the many advantages
to be derived from the habit of distinguishing synonyms. These
advantages we might presume to be many, even though we could not
ourselves perceive them; for how often do the greatest masters of style
in every tongue, perhaps none so often as Cicero, the greatest of all,
[Footnote: Thus he distinguishes between 'voluntas' and 'cupiditas';
'cautio' and 'metus' (_Tusc_. iv. 6); 'gaudium,' 'laetitia,' 'voluptas'
(_Tusc_. iv. 6; _Fin_. ii. 4); 'prudentia' and 'sapientia' (_Off_. i.
43); 'caritas' and 'amor' (_De Part. Or_. 25); 'ebrius' and 'ebriosus,'
'iracundus' and 'iratus,' 'anxietas' and 'angor' (_Tusc_. iv. 12);
'vitium,' 'morbus,' and 'aegrotatio' (_Tusc_. iv. 13); 'labor' and
'dolor' (_Tusc_. ii. 15); 'furor' and 'insania' (_Tusc_. iii. 5);
'malitia' and 'vitiositas' (_Tusc_. iv. 15); 'doctus' and 'peritus'
(_Off_. i. 3). Quintilian also often bestows attention on synonyms,
observing well (vi. 3. 17): 'Pluribus nominibus in eadem re vulgo
utimur; quae tamen si diducas, suam quandam propriam vim ostendent;' he
adduces 'salsum,' 'urbanum,' 'facetum'; and elsewhere (v. 3) 'rumor'
and 'fama' are discriminated happily by him. Among Church writers
Augustine is a frequent and successful discriminator of words. Thus he
separates off from one another 'flagitium' and 'facinus' (_De Doct.
Christ_, iii. 10); 'aemulatio' and 'invidia' (_Expl. ad Gal._ x. 20);
'arrha' and 'pignus' (_Serm._ 23. 8,9); 'studiosus' and 'curiosus' (_De
Util. Cred._ 9); 'sapientia' and 'scientia' (_De Div. Quaes_. 2, qu.
2); 'senecta' and 'senium' (_Enarr. in Ps._ 70. l8); 'schisma' and
'haeresis' (_Con. Cresc_. 2. 7); with many more (see my _Synonyms of
the N.T._ Preface, p. xvi). Among the merits of the Grimms'
_Wörterbuch_ is the care which they, and those who have taken up their
work, bestow on the discrimination of synonyms; distinguishing, for
example, 'degen' and 'schwert'; 'feld,' 'acker' and 'heide'; 'aar' and
'adler'; 'antlitz' and 'angesicht'; 'kelch,' 'becher' and 'glas';
'frau' and 'weib'; 'butter,' 'schmalz' and 'anke'; 'kopf' and 'haupt';
'klug' and 'weise'; 'geben' and 'schenken'; 'heirath' and 'ehe.']
pause to discriminate between the words they are using; how much care
and labour, how much subtlety of thought, they have counted well
bestowed on the operation; how much importance they avowedly attach to
it; not to say that their works, even where they do not intend it, will
afford a continual lesson in this respect: a great writer merely in the
precision and accuracy with which he employs words will always be
exercising us in synonymous distinction. But the advantages of
attending to synonyms need not be taken on trust; they are evident. How
large a part of true wisdom it is to be able to distinguish between
things that differ, things seemingly, but not really, alike, is very
remarkably attested by our words 'discernment' and 'discretion'; which
are now used as equivalent, the first to 'insight,' the second to
'prudence'; while yet in their earlier usage, and according to their
etymology, being both from 'discerno,' they signify the power of so
seeing things that in the seeing we distinguish and separate them one
from another. [Footnote: L'esprit consiste à connaitre la ressemblance
des choses diverses, et la différence des choses semblables
(Montesquieu). Saint-Evremond says of a reunion of the Précieuses at
the Hotel Rambouillet, with a raillery which is not meant to be
'Là se font distinguer les fiertés des rigueurs,
Les dédains des mépris, les tourments des langueurs;
On y sait démêler la crainte et les alarmes,
Discerner les attraits, les appas et les charmes.'] Such were
originally 'discernment' and 'discretion,' and such in great measure
they are still. And in words is a material ever at hand on which to
train the spirit to a skilfulness in this; on which to exercise its
sagacity through the habit of distinguishing there where it would be so
easy to confound. [Footnote: I will suggest here a few pairs or larger
groups of words on which those who are willing to exercise themselves
in the distinction of synonyms might perhaps profitably exercise their
skill;--'fame,' 'popularity,' 'celebrity,' 'reputation,' 'renown';--
'misfortune,' 'calamity,' 'disaster';--'impediment,' 'obstruction,'
'obstacle,' 'hindrance';--'temerity,' 'audacity,' 'boldness';--
'rebuke,' 'reprimand,' 'censure,' 'blame';--'adversary,' 'opponent,'
'antagonist,' 'enemy';--'rival,' 'competitor';--'affluence,'
'opulence,' 'abundance,' 'redundance';--'conduct,' 'behaviour,'
'demeanour,' 'bearing';--'execration,' 'malediction,' 'imprecation,'
'anathema';--'avaricious,' 'covetous,' 'miserly,' 'niggardly';--
'hypothesis,' 'theory,' 'system' (see De Quincey, _Lit. Rem._ American
ed. p.229);--'masculine,' 'manly';--'effeminate,' 'feminine';--
'womanly,' 'womanish';--'malicious,' 'malignant';--'savage,'
'barbarous,' 'fierce,' 'cruel,' 'inhuman';--'low, 'mean,' 'abject,'
'base';--'to chasten,' 'to punish,' 'to chastise';--'to exile,' 'to
banish';--'to declare,' 'to disclose,' 'to reveal,' 'to divulge';--'to
defend,' 'to protect,' 'to shelter';--'to excuse,' 'to palliate';--'to
compel,' 'to coerce,' 'to constrain,' 'to force.'] Nor is this habit
of discrimination only valuable as a part of our intellectual training;
but what a positive increase is it of mental wealth when we have
learned to discern between things which really differ, and have made
the distinctions between them permanently our own in the only way
whereby they can be made secure, that is, by assigning to each its
appropriate word and peculiar sign.

In the effort to trace lines of demarcation you may little by little be
drawn into the heart of subjects the most instructive; for only as you
have thoroughly mastered a subject, and all which is most
characteristic about it, can you hope to trace these lines with
accuracy and success. Thus a Roman of the higher classes might bear
four names: 'praenomen,' 'nomen,' 'cognomen,' 'agnomen'; almost always
bore three. You will know something of the political and family life of
Rome when you can tell the exact story of each of these, and the
precise difference between them. He will not be altogether ignorant of
the Middle Ages and of the clamps which in those ages bound society
together, who has learned exactly to distinguish between a 'fief' and a
'benefice.' He will have obtained a firm grasp on some central facts of
theology who can exactly draw out the distinction between
'reconciliation,' 'propitiation,' 'atonement,' as used in the New
Testament; of Church history, who can trace the difference between a
'schism' and a 'heresy.' One who has learned to discriminate between
'detraction' and 'slander,' as Barrow has done before him, [Footnote:
'Slander involveth an imputation of falsehood, but detraction may be
couched in truth, and clothed in fair language. It is a poison often
infused in sweet liquor, and ministered in a golden cup.' Compare
Spenser, _Fairy Queen_, 5. 12. 28-43.] or between 'emulation' and
'envy,' in which South has excellently shown him the way, [Footnote:
_Sermons_, 1737, vol. v. p. 403. His words are quoted in my _Select
Glossary_, s. v 'Emulation.'] or between 'avarice' and 'covetousness,'
with Cowley, will have made no unprofitable excursion into the region
of ethics.

How effectual a help, moreover, will it prove to the writing of a good
English style, if instead of choosing almost at hap-hazard from a group
of words which seem to us one about as fit for our purpose as another,
we at once know which, and which only, we ought in the case before us
to employ, which will prove the exact vesture of our thoughts. It is
the first characteristic of a well-dressed man that his clothes fit
him: they are not too small and shrunken here, too large and loose
there. Now it is precisely such a prime characteristic of a good style,
that the words fit close to the thoughts. They will not be too big here,
hanging like a giant's robe on the limbs of a dwarf; nor too small
there, as a boy's garments into which the man has painfully and
ridiculously thrust himself. You do not, as you read, feel in one place
that the writer means more than he has succeeded in saying; in another
that he has said more than he means; in a third something beside what
his precise intention was; in a fourth that he has failed to convey any
meaning at all; and all this from a lack of skill in employing the
instrument of language, of precision in knowing what words would be the
exactest correspondents and aptest exponents of his thoughts. [Footnote:
La propriété des termes est le caractère distinctif des grands
écrivains; c'est par là que leur style est toujours au niveau de leur
sujet; c'est à cette qualité qu'on reconnaît le vrai talent d'écrire,
et non à l'art futile de déguiser par un vain coloris les idées
communes. So D'Alembert; but Caesar long before had said, Delectus
verborum, eloquentiae origo.]

What a wealth of words in almost every language lies inert and unused;
and certainly not fewest in our own. How much of what might be as
current coin among us, is shut up in the treasure-house of a few
classical authors, or is never to be met at all but in the columns of
the dictionary, we meanwhile, in the midst of all this riches,
condemning ourselves to a voluntary poverty; and often, with tasks the
most delicate and difficult to accomplish,--for surely the clothing of
thought in its most appropriate garment of words is such,--needlessly
depriving ourselves of a large portion of the helps at our command;
like some workman who, being furnished for an operation that will
challenge all his skill with a dozen different tools, each adapted for
its own special purpose, should in his indolence and self-conceit
persist in using only one; doing coarsely what might have been done
finely; or leaving altogether undone that which, with such assistances,
was quite within his reach. And thus it comes to pass that in the
common intercourse of life, often too in books, a certain restricted
number of words are worked almost to death, employed in season and out
of season--a vast multitude meanwhile being rarely, if at all, called
to render the service which _they_ could render far better than any
other; so rarely, indeed, that little by little they slip out of sight
and are forgotten nearly or altogether. And then, perhaps, at some
later day, when their want is felt, the ignorance into which we have
allowed ourselves to fall, of the resources offered by the language to
satisfy new demands, sends us abroad in search of outlandish
substitutes for words which we already possess at home. [Footnote: Thus
I observe in modern French the barbarous 'derailler,' to get off the
rail; and this while it only needed to recall 'derayer' from the
oblivion into which it had been allowed to fall.] It was, no doubt, to
avoid so far as possible such an impoverishment of the language which
he spoke and wrote, for the feeding of his own speech with words
capable of serving him well, but in danger of falling quite out of his
use, that the great Lord Chatham had Bailey's Dictionary', the best of
his time, twice read to him from one end to the other.

And let us not suppose the power of exactly saying what we mean, and
neither more nor less than we mean, to be merely a graceful mental
accomplishment. It is indeed this, and perhaps there is no power so
surely indicative of a high and accurate training of the intellectual
faculties. But it is much more than this: it has a moral value as well.
It is nearly allied to morality, inasmuch as it is nearly connected
with truthfulness. Every man who has himself in any degree cared for
the truth, and occupied himself in seeking it, is more or less aware
how much of the falsehood in the world passes current under the
concealment of words, how many strifes and controversies,
'Which feed the simple, and offend the wise,'
find all or nearly all the fuel that maintains them in words carelessly
or dishonestly employed. And when a man has had any actual experience
of this, and at all perceived how far this mischief reaches, he is
sometimes almost tempted to say with Shakespeare, 'Out, idle words,
servants to shallow fools'; to adopt the saying of his clown, 'Words
are grown so false I am loathe to prove reason with them.' He cannot,
however, forego their employment; not to say that he will presently
perceive that this falseness of theirs whereof he accuses them, this
cheating power, is not of their proper use, but only of their abuse;
he will see that, however they may have been enlisted in the service of
lies, they are yet of themselves most true; and that, where the bane is,
there the antidote should be sought as well. If Goethe's _Faust_
denounces words and the falsehood of words, it is by the aid of words
that he does it. Ask then words what they mean, that you may deliver
yourselves, that you may help to deliver others, from the tyranny of
words, and, to use Baxter's excellent phrase, from the strife of 'word-
warriors.' Learn to distinguish between them, for you have the authority
of Hooker, that 'the mixture of those things by speech, which by nature
are divided, is the mother of all error.' [Footnote: See on all this
matter in Locke's _Essay on Human Understanding,_ chapters 9, 10 and 11
of the 3rd book, certainly the most remarkable in the _Essay;_ they bear
the following titles: _Of the Imperfection of Words, Of the Abuse of
Words, Of the Remedies of the Imperfection and Abuse of Words._] And
although I cannot promise you that the study of synonyms, or the
acquaintance with derivations, or any other knowledge but the very highest
knowledge of all, will deliver you from the temptation to misuse this or
any other gift of God--a temptation always lying so near us--yet I am sure
that these studies rightly pursued will do much in leading us to stand in
awe of this gift of speech, and to tremble at the thought of turning it to
any other than those worthy ends for which God has endowed us with a
faculty so divine.



At the Great Exhibition of 1851, there might be seen a collection,
probably by far the completest which had ever been got together, of
what were called _the material helps of education_. There was then
gathered in a single room all the outward machinery of moral and
intellectual training; all by which order might be best maintained, the
labour of the teacher and the taught economized, with a thousand
ingenious devices suggested by the best experience of many minds, and
of these during many years. Nor were these material helps of education
merely mechanical. There were in that collection vivid representations
of places and objects; models which often preserved their actual forms
and proportions, not to speak of maps and of books. No one who is aware
how much in schools, and indeed everywhere else, depends on what
apparently is slight and external, would lightly esteem the helps and
hints which such a collection would furnish. And yet it would be well
for us to remember that even if we were to obtain all this apparatus in
its completest form, at the same time possessing the most perfect skill
in its application, so that it should never encumber but always assist
us, we should yet have obtained very little compared with that which,
as a help to education, is already ours. When we stand face to face
with a child, that spoken or unspoken word which the child possesses in
common with ourselves is a far more potent implement and aid of
education than all these external helps, even though they should be
accumulated and multiplied a thousandfold. A reassuring thought for
those who may not have many of these helps within their reach, a
warning thought for those who might be tempted to put their trust in
them. On the occasion of that Exhibition to which I have referred, it
was well said, 'On the structure of language are impressed the most
distinct and durable records of the habitual operations of the human
powers. In the full possession of language each man has a vast, almost
an inexhaustible, treasure of examples of the most subtle and varied
processes of human thought. Much apparatus, many material helps, some
of them costly, may be employed to assist education; but there is no
apparatus which is so necessary, or which can do so much, as that which
is the most common and the cheapest--which is always at hand, and ready
for every need. Every language contains in it the result of a greater
number of educational processes and educational experiments, than we
could by any amount of labour and ingenuity accumulate in any
educational exhibition expressly contrived for such a purpose.'

Being entirely convinced that this is nothing more than the truth, I
shall endeavour in my closing lecture to suggest some ways in which you
may effectually use this marvellous implement which you possess to the
better fulfilling of that which you have chosen as the proper task of
your life. You will gladly hear something upon this matter; for you
will never, I trust, disconnect what you may yourselves be learning
from the hope and prospect of being enabled thereby to teach others
more effectually. If you do, and your studies in this way become a
selfish thing, if you are content to leave them barren of all profit to
others, of this you may be sure, that in the end they will prove not
less barren of profit to yourselves. In one noble line Chaucer has
characterized the true scholar:--

'And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.'

Print these words on your remembrance. Resolve that in the spirit of
this line you will work and live.

But take here a word or two of warning before we advance any further.
You cannot, of course, expect to make any original investigations in
language; but you can follow safe guides, such as shall lead you by
right paths, even as you may follow such as can only lead you astray.
Do not fail to keep in mind that perhaps in no region of human
knowledge are there such a multitude of unsafe leaders as in this; for
indeed this science of words is one which many, professing for it an
earnest devotion, have done their best or their worst to bring into
discredit, and to make a laughing-stock at once of the foolish and the
wise. Niebuhr has somewhere noted 'the unspeakable spirit of absurdity'
which seemed to possess the ancients, whenever they meddled with this
subject; but the charge reaches others beside them. Their mantle, it
must be owned, has in after times often fallen upon no unworthy

What is commoner, even now, than to find the investigator of words and
their origin looking round about him here and there, in all the
languages, ancient and modern, to which he has any access, till he
lights on some word, it matters little to him in which of these, more
or less resembling that which he wishes to derive? and this found, to
consider his problem solved, and that in this phantom hunt he has
successfully run down his prey. Even Dr. Johnson, with his robust,
strong, English common-sense, too often offends in this way. In many
respects his _Dictionary_ will probably never be surpassed. We shall
never have more concise, more accurate, more vigorous explanations of
the actual meaning of words, at the time when it was published, than he
has furnished. But even those who recognize the most fully this merit,
must allow that he was ill equipped by any preliminary studies for
tracing the past history of words; that in this he errs often and
signally; sometimes where the smallest possible amount of knowledge
would have preserved him from error; as for instance when he derives
the name of the peacock from the peak, or tuft of pointed feathers, on
its head! while other derivations proposed or allowed by him and others
are so far more absurd than this, that when Swift, in ridicule of the
whole band of philologers, suggests that 'ostler' is only a contraction
of oat-stealer, and 'breeches' of bear-riches, these etymologies are
scarcely more ridiculous than many which have in sober earnest, and by
men of no inconsiderable reputation, been proposed.

Oftentimes in this scheme of random etymology, a word in one language
is derived from one in another, in bold defiance of the fact that no
points of historic contact or connexion, mediate or immediate, have
ever existed between the two; the etymologist not caring to ask himself
whether it was thus so much as possible that the word should have
passed from the one language to the other; whether in fact the
resemblance is not merely superficial and illusory, one which, so soon
as they are stripped of their accidents, disappears altogether. Take a
few specimens of this manner of dealing with words; and first from the
earlier etymologists. Thus, what are men doing but extending not the
limits of their knowledge but of their ignorance, when they deduce,
with Varro, 'pavo' from 'pavor,' because of the fear which the harsh
shriek of the peacock awakens; or with Pliny, 'panthera' from [Greek:
pan thaerion], because properties of all beasts meet in the panther; or
persuade themselves that 'formica,' the ant, is 'ferens micas,' the
grain-bearer. Medieval suggestions abound, as vain, and if possible,
vainer still. Thus Sirens, as Chaucer assures us, are 'serenes' being
fair-weather creatures only to be seen in a calm. [Footnote: _Romaunt
of the Rose_, 678.] 'Apis,' a bee, is [Greek: apous] or without feet,
bees being born without feet, the etymology and the natural history
keeping excellent company together. Or what shall we say of deriving
'mors' from 'amarus,' because death is bitter; or from 'Mars,' because
death is frequent in war; or 'à _morsu_ vetiti pomi,' because that
forbidden bite brought death into the world; or with a modern
investigator of language, and one of high reputation in his time,
deducing 'girl' from 'garrula,' because girls are commonly talkative?
[Footnote: Ménage is one of these 'blind leaders of the blind,' of
whom I have spoken above. With all their real, though not very accurate,
erudition, his three folio volumes, two on French, one on Italian
etymologies, have done nothing but harm to the cause which they were
intended to further. Génin (_Récréations Philologiques_, pp. 12-15)
passes a severe but just judgment upon them. Ménage, comme tous ses
devanciers et la plupart de ses successeurs, semble n'avoir été dirigé
que par un seul principe en fait d'étymologie. Le voici dans son
expression la plus nette. Tout mot vient du mot qui lui ressemble le
mieux. Cela posé, Ménage, avec son érudition polyglotte, s'abat sur le
grec, le latin, l'italien, l'espagnol, l'allemand, le celtique, et ne
fait difficulté d'aller jusqu'à l'hébreu. C'est dommage que de son
temps on ne cultivât pas encore le sanscrit, l'hindotistani, le
thibétain et l'arabe: il les eût contraints à lui livrer des
étymologies françaises. Il ne se met pas en peine des chemins par où
un mot hébreu ou carthaginois aurait pu passer pour venir s'établir en
France. Il y est, le voilà, suffit! L'identité ne peut être mise en
question devant la ressemblance, et souvent Dieu sait quelle
ressemblance! Compare Ampère, _Formation de la Langue Française_, pp.
194, 195.]

All experience, indeed, proves how perilous it is to etymologize at
random, and on the strength of mere surface similarities of sound. Let
me illustrate the absurdities into which this may easily betray us by
an amusing example. A clergyman, who himself told me the story, had
sought, and not unsuccessfully, to kindle in his schoolmaster a passion
for the study of derivations. His scholar inquired of him one day if he
were aware of the derivation of 'crypt'? He naturally applied in the
affirmative, that 'crypt' came from a Greek word to conceal, and meant
a covered place, itself concealed, and where things which it was wished
to conceal were placed. The other rejoined that he was quite aware the
word was commonly so explained, but he had no doubt erroneously; that
'crypt,' as he had now convinced himself, was in fact contracted from
'cry-pit'; being the pit where in days of Popish tyranny those who were
condemned to cruel penances were plunged, and out of which their cry
was heard to come up--therefore called the 'cry-pit,' now contracted
into 'crypt'! Let me say, before quitting my tale, that I would far
sooner a schoolmaster made a hundred such mistakes than that he should
be careless and incurious in all which concerned the words which he was
using. To make mistakes, as we are in the search of knowledge, is far
more honourable than to escape making them through never having set out
in this search at all

But while errors like his may very well be pardoned, of this we may be
sure, that they will do little in etymology, will continually err and
cause others to err, who in these studies leave this out of sight for
an instant--namely, that no amount of resemblance between words in
different languages is of itself sufficient to prove that they are akin,
even as no amount of apparent unlikeness in sound or present form is
sufficient to disprove consanguinity. 'Judge not according to
appearances,' must everywhere here be the rule. One who in many regions
of human knowledge anticipated the discoveries of later times, said
well a century and a half ago, 'Many etymologies are true, which at the
first blush are not probable'; [Footnote: Leibnitz (_Opp_. vol. v. p.
61): Saepe fit ut etymologiae verae sint, quae primo aspectu
verisimiles non sunt.] and, as he might have added, many appear
probable, which are not true. This being so, it is our wisdom on the
one side to distrust superficial likenesses, on the other not to be
repelled by superficial differences. Have no faith in those who
etymologize on the strength of _sounds_, and not on that of _letters_,
and of letters, moreover, dealt with according to fixed and recognized
laws of equivalence and permutation. Much, as was said so well, is true,
which does not seem probable. Thus 'dens' [Footnote: Compare Max Muller,
_Chips from a German Workshop_, vol. iv. p. 25; Heyse, _System der
Sprachwissenschaft_, p. 307.] and 'zahn' and 'tooth' are all the same
word, and such in like manner are [Greek: chen], 'anser,' 'gans,' and
'goose;' and again, [Greek: dakru] and 'tear.' Who, on the other hand,
would not take for granted that our 'much' and the Spanish 'mucho,'
identical in meaning, were also in etymology nearly related? There is
in fact no connexion between them. Between 'vulgus' and 'volk' there is
as little. 'Auge' the German form of our 'eye,' is in every letter
identical with a Greek word for splendour ([Greek: auge]); and yet,
intimate as is the connexion between German and Greek, these have no
relation with one another whatever. Not many years ago a considerable
scholar identified the Greek 'holos' ([Greek: holos]) and our 'whole;'
and few, I should imagine, have not been tempted at one stage of their
knowledge to do the same. These also are in no way related. Need I
remind you here of the importance of seeking to obtain in every case
the earliest spelling of a word which is attainable? [Footnote: What
signal gains may in this way be made no one has shown more remarkably
than Skeat in his _Etymological Dictionary_.]

Here then, as elsewhere, the condition of all successful investigation
is to have learned to disregard phenomena, the deceitful shows and
appearances of things; to have resolved to reach and to grapple with
the things themselves. It is the fable of Proteus over again. He will
take a thousand shapes wherewith he will seek to elude and delude one
who is determined to extort from him that true answer, which he is
capable of yielding, but will only yield on compulsion. The true
inquirer is deceived by none of these. He still holds him fast; binds
him in strong chains; until he takes his proper shape at the last; and
answers as a true seer, so far as answer is possible, whatever question
may be put to him. Nor, let me observe by the way, will that man's gain
be small who, having so learned to distrust the obvious and the
plausible, carries into other regions of study and of action the
lessons which he has thus learned; determines to seek the ground of
things, and to plant his foot upon that; believes that a lie may look
very fair, and yet be a lie after all; that the truth may show very
unattractive, very unlikely and paradoxical, and yet be the very truth

To return from a long, but not unnecessary digression. Convinced as I
am of the immense advantage of following up words to their sources, of
'deriving' them, that is, of tracing each little rill to the river from
whence it was first drawn, I can conceive no method of so effectually
defacing and barbarizing our English tongue, of practically emptying it
of all the hoarded wit, wisdom, imagination, and history which it
contains, of cutting the vital nerve which connects its present with
the past, as the introduction of the scheme of phonetic spelling, which
some have lately been zealously advocating among us. I need hardly tell
you that the fundamental idea of this is that all words should be spelt
as they are sounded, that the writing should, in every case, be
subordinated to the speaking. [Footnote: I do not know whether the
advocates of phonetic spelling have urged the authority and practice of
Augustus as being in their favour. Suetonius, among other amusing
gossip about this Emperor, records of him: Videtur eorum sequi
opinionem, qui perinde scribendum ac loquamur, existiment (_Octavius_.
c. 88).] This, namely that writing should in every case and at all
costs be subordinated to speaking, which is everywhere tacitly assumed
as not needing any proof, is the fallacy which runs through the whole
scheme. There is, indeed, no necessity at all for this. Every word, on
the contrary, has _two_ existences, as a spoken word and a written; and
you have no right to sacrifice one of these, or even to subordinate it
wholly, to the other. A word exists as truly for the eye as for the
ear; and in a highly advanced state of society, where reading is almost
as universal as speaking, quite as much for the one as for the other.
That in the _written_ word moreover is the permanence and continuity of
language and of learning, and that the connexion is most intimate of a
true orthography with all this, is affirmed in our words, 'letters,'
'literature,' 'unlettered,' as in other languages by words exactly
corresponding to these. [Footnote: As [Greek: grammata, agrammatos],
litterae, belles-lettres.] The gains consequent on the introduction of
such a change in our manner of spelling would be insignificantly small,
the losses enormously great. There would be gain in the saving of a
certain amount of the labour now spent in learning to spell. The amount
of labour, however, is absurdly exaggerated by the promoters of the
scheme. I forget how many thousand hours a phonetic reformer lately
assured us were on an average spent by every English child in learning
to spell; or how much time by grown men, who, as he assured us, for the
most part rarely attempted to write a letter without a Johnson's
_Dictionary_ at their side. But even this gain would not long remain,
seeing that pronunciation is itself continually changing; custom is
lord here for better and for worse; and a multitude of words are now
pronounced in a manner different from that of a hundred years ago,
indeed from that of ten years ago; so that, before very long, there
would again be a chasm between the spelling and the pronunciation of
words;--unless indeed the spelling varied, which it could not
consistently refuse to do, as the pronunciation varied, reproducing
each of its capricious or barbarous alterations; these last, it must be
remembered, being changes not in the pronunciation only, but in the
word itself, which would only exist as pronounced, the written word
being a mere shadow servilely waiting upon the spoken. When these
changes had multiplied a little, and they would indeed multiply
exceedingly on the removal of the barriers to change which now exist,
what the language before long would become, it is not easy to guess.

This fact however, though sufficient to show how ineffectual the scheme
of phonetic spelling would prove, even for the removing of those
inconveniences which it proposes to remedy, is only the smallest
objection to it. The far more serious charge which may be brought
against it is, that in words out of number it would obliterate those
clear marks of birth and parentage, which they bear now upon their
fronts, or are ready, upon a very slight interrogation, to reveal.
Words have now an ancestry; and the ancestry of words, as of men, is
often a very noble possession, making them capable of great things,
because those from whom they are descended have done great things
before them; but this would deface their scutcheon, and bring them all
to the same ignoble level. Words are now a nation, grouped into tribes
and families, some smaller, some larger; this change would go far to
reduce them to a promiscuous and barbarous horde. Now they are often
translucent with their inner thought, lighted up by it; in how many
cases would this inner light be then quenched! They have now a body and
a soul, the soul quickening the body; then oftentimes nothing but a
body, forsaken by the spirit of life, would remain. These objections
were urged long ago by Bacon, who characterizes this so-called
reformation, 'that writing should be consonant to speaking,' as 'a
branch of unprofitable subtlety;' and especially urges that thereby
'the derivations of words, especially from foreign languages, are
utterly defaced and extinguished.' [Footnote: The same attempt to
introduce phonography has been several times made, once in the
sixteenth century, and again some thirty years ago in France. What
would be there the results? We may judge of these from the results of a
partial application of the system. 'Temps' is now written 'tems,' the
_p_ having been ejected as superfluous. What is the consequence? at
once its visible connexion with the Latin 'tempus,' with the Spanish
'tiempo,' with the Italian 'tempo,' with its own 'temporel' and
'temporaire,' is broken, and for many effaced. Or note the result from
another point of view. Here are 'poids' a weight, 'poix' pitch, 'pois'
peas. No one could mark in speaking the distinction between these; and
thus to the ear there maybe confusion between them, but to the eye
there is none; not to say that the _d_ in poi_d_s' puts it for us in
relation with 'pon_d_us,' the _x_ in 'poi_x_' with 'pu_x_,' the _s_ in
'poi_s_' with the Low Latin 'pi_s_um.' In each case the letter which
these reformers would dismiss as useless, and worse than useless, keeps
the secret of the word. On some other attempts in the same direction
see in D'Israeli, _Amenities of Literature_, an article _On Orthography
and Orthoepy_; and compare Diez, _Romanische Sprache_, vol. i. p. 52.
[In the form _poids_ we have a striking example of a wretchedly bad
spelling which is due to an attempt to make the spelling etymological.
Unfortunately the etymology is erroneous: the French word for weight
has nothing in the world to do with Latin _pondus_; it is the phonetic
representative of the Latin _pensum_, and should be spelt _pois_.]]

From the results of various approximations to phonetic spelling, which
at different times have been made, and the losses thereon ensuing, we
may guess what the loss would be were the system fully carried out. Of
those fairly acquainted with Latin, it would be curious to know how
many have seen 'silva' in 'savage,' since it has been so written, and
not 'salvage,' as of old? or have been reminded of the hindrances to a
civilized and human society which the indomitable forest, more perhaps
than any other obstacle, presents. When 'fancy' was spelt 'phant'sy,'
as by Sylvester in his translation of Du Bartas, and other scholarly
writers of the seventeenth century, no one could doubt of its identity
with 'phantasy,' as no Greek scholar could miss its relation with
phantasia. Spell 'analyse' as I have sometimes seen it, and as
phonetically it ought to be, 'annalize,' and the tap-root of the word
is cut. How many readers will recognize in it then the image of
dissolving and resolving aught into its elements, and use it with a
more or less conscious reference to this? It may be urged that few do
so even now. The more need they should not be fewer; for these few do
in fact retain the word in its place, from which else it might
gradually drift; they preserve its vitality, and the propriety of its
use, not merely for themselves, but also for the others that have not
this knowledge. In phonetic spelling is, in fact, the proposal that the
learned and the educated should of free choice place themselves under
the disadvantages of the ignorant and uneducated, instead of seeking to
elevate these last to their own more favoured condition.

On this subject one observation more. The multitude of difficulties of
every sort and size which would beset the period of transition, and
that no brief period, from our present spelling to the very easiest
form of phonetic, seem to me to be almost wholly overlooked by those
who are the most eager to press forward this scheme: while yet it is
very noticeable that so soon as ever the 'Spelling Reform' approaches,
however remotely, a practical shape, the Reformers, who up to this time
were at issue with all the rest of the world, are at once at issue
among themselves. At once the question comes to the front, Shall the
labour-pangs of this immense new-birth or transformation of English be
encountered all at once? or shall they be spread over years, and little
by little the necessary changes introduced? It would not be easy to
bring together two scholars who have bestowed more thought and the
results of more laborious study on the whole subject of phonetic
spelling than Mr. Ellis and Dr. Murray have done, while yet at the last
annual meeting of the Philological Society (May 20, 1881) these two
distinguished scholars, with mutual respect undiminished, had no choice
but to acknowledge that, while they were seeking the same objects, the
means by which they sought to attain them were altogether different,
and that, in the judgment of each, all which the other was doing in
setting forward results equally dear to both was only tending to put
hindrances in the way, and to make the attainment of those results
remoter than ever. [Footnote: [For arguments in defence of phonetic
spelling the student is referred to Sweet's _Handbook of Phonetics_
(Appendix); Skeat's _Principles of English Etymology_, p. 294; Max
Muller's _Lectures on the Science of Language_, ii. 108.]]

But to return. Even now the relationships of words, so important for
our right understanding of them, are continually overlooked; a very
little matter serving to conceal from us the family to which they
pertain. Thus how many of our nouns are indeed unsuspected participles,
or are otherwise most closely connected with verbs, with which we
probably never think of putting them in relation. And yet with how
lively an interest shall we discover those to be of closest kin, which
we had never considered but as entire strangers to one another; what
increased mastery over our mother tongue shall we through such
discoveries obtain. Thus 'wrong' is the perfect participle of 'to
wring' that which has been 'wrung' or wrested from the right; as in
French 'tort,' from 'torqueo,' is the twisted. The 'brunt' of the
battle is its heat, where it 'burns' the most fiercely; [Footnote: The
word _brunt_ is a somewhat difficult form to explain. It is probably of
Scandinavian origin; compare Danish _brynde_, heat. For the dental
suffix -_t_, see Douse, _Gothic_, p. 101. The suffix is not
participial.] the 'haft' of a knife, that whereby you 'have' or hold it.

This exercise of putting words in their true relation and connexion
with one another might be carried much further. Of whole groups of
words, which may seem to acknowledge no kinship with one another, it
will not be difficult to show that they had the same parentage, or, if
not this, a cousinship in common. For instance, here are 'shore,'
'share,' 'shears'; 'shred,' 'sherd'; all most closely connected with
the verb 'to sheer.' 'Share' is a portion of anything divided off;
'shears' are instruments effecting this process of separation; the
'shore' is the place where the continuity of the land is interrupted by
the sea; a 'shred' is that which is shorn from the main piece; a
'sherd,' as a pot-'sherd,' (also 'pot-share,' Spenser,) that which is
broken off and thus divided from the vessel; these not all exhausting
this group or family of words, though it would occupy more time than we
can spare to put some other words in their relation with it.

But this analysing of groups of words for the detecting of the bond of
relationship between them, and their common root, may require more
etymological knowledge than you possess, and more helps from books than
you can always command. There is another process, and one which may
prove no less useful to yourselves and to others, which will lie more
certainly within your reach. You will meet in books, sometimes in the
same book, and perhaps in the same page of this book, a word used in
senses so far apart from one another that at first it will seem to you
absurd to suppose any bond of connexion between them. Now when you thus
fall in with a word employed in these two or more senses so far removed
from one another, accustom yourselves to seek out the bond which there
certainly is between these several uses. This tracing of that which is
common to and connects all its meanings can only be done by getting to
its centre and heart, to the seminal meaning, from which, as from a
fruitful seed, all the others unfold themselves; to the first link in
the chain, from which every later one, in a direct line or a lateral,
depends. We may proceed in this investigation, certain that we shall
find such, or at least that such there is to be found. For nothing can
be more certain than this (and the non-recognition of it is a serious
blemish in Johnson's _Dictionary_), that a word has originally but one
meaning, that all other uses, however widely they may diverge from one
another and recede from this one, may yet be affiliated to it, brought
back to the one central meaning, which grasps and knits them all
together; just as the several races of men, black, white, and yellow
and red, despite of all their present diversity and dispersion, have a
central point of unity in that one pair from which they all have

Let me illustrate this by two or three familiar examples. How various
are the senses in which 'post' is used; as 'post'-office; 'post'-haste;
a 'post' standing in the ground; a military 'post'; an official 'post';
'to post' a ledger. Is it possible to find anything which is common to
all these uses of 'post'? When once we are on the right track, nothing
is easier. 'Post' is the Latin 'positus,' that which is _placed_; the
piece of timber is 'placed' in the ground, and so a 'post'; a military
station is a 'post,' for a man is 'placed' in it, and must not quit it
without orders; to travel 'post,' is to have certain relays of horses
''placed' at intervals, that so no delay on the road may occur; the
'post '-office avails itself of this mode of communication; to 'post' a
ledger is to 'place' or register its several items.

Once more, in what an almost infinite number of senses 'stock' is
employed; we have live 'stock,' 'stock' in trade or on the farm, the
village 'stocks,' the 'stock' of a gun, the 'stock'-dove, the 'stocks,'
on which ships are built, the 'stock' which goes round the neck, the
family 'stock,' the 'stocks,' or public funds, in which money is
invested, with other 'stocks' besides these. What point in common can
we find between them all? This, that being all derived from one verb,
they cohere in the idea of _fixedness_ which is common to them all.
Thus, the 'stock' of a gun is that in which the barrel is fixed; the
village 'stocks' are those in which the feet are fastened; the 'stock'
in trade is the fixed capital; and so too, the 'stock' on the farm,
although the fixed capital has there taken the shape of horses and
cattle; in the 'stocks' or public funds, money sticks fast, inasmuch as
those who place it there cannot withdraw or demand the capital, but
receive only the interest; the 'stock' of a tree is fast set in the
ground; and from this use of the word it is transferred to a family;
the 'stock' is that from which it grows, and out of which it unfolds
itself. And here we may bring in the 'stock'-dove, as being the 'stock'
or stirps of the domestic kinds. I might group with these, 'stake' in
both its spellings; a 'stake' is stuck in the hedge and there remains;
the 'stakes' which men wager against the issue of a race are paid down,
and thus fixed or deposited to answer the event; a beef-'steak' is a
portion so small that it can be stuck on the point of a fork; and so
forward. [Footnote: See the _Instructions for Parish Priests_, p. 69,
published by the _Early English Texts Society_.] When we thus affirm
that the divergent meanings of a word can all be brought back to some
one point from which, immediately or mediately, they every one proceed,
that none has primarily more than one meaning, it must be remembered
that there may very well be two words, or, as it will sometimes happen,
more, spelt as well as pronounced alike, which yet are wholly different
in their derivation and primary usage; and that, of course, between
such homonyms or homographs as these no bond of union on the score of
this identity is to be sought. Neither does this fact in the least
invalidate our assertion. We have in them, as Cobbett expresses it well,
the same combination of letters, but not the same word. Thus we have
'page,' the side of a leaf, from 'pagina,' and 'page,' a small boy;
'league,' a treaty (F. ligue), from 'ligare,' to bind, and 'league' (O.
F. legue), from leuca, a Celtic measure of distance; 'host' (hostis),
an army, 'host' (O. F. hoste), from the Latin hospitem, and 'host'
(hostia), in the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the mass. We have two
'ounces' (uncia and Pers. yuz); two 'seals' (sigillum and seolh); two
'moods' (modus and mod); two 'sacks' (saccus and sec); two 'sounds'
(sonus and sund); two 'lakes' (lacus and lacca); two 'kennels' (canalis
and canile); two 'partisans' (partisan and partegiana); two 'quires'
(choeur and cahier); two 'corns' (corn and cornu); two 'ears' (ohr and
ähre); two 'doles' (deuil and theil); two 'perches' (pertica and
perca); two 'races' (raes and the French race); two 'rocks,' two
'rooks,' two 'sprays,' two 'saws,' two 'strains,' two 'trunks,' two
'burrows,' two 'helms,' two 'quarries'; three 'moles,' three 'rapes'
(as the 'rape' of Proserpine, the 'rape' of Bramber, 'rape'-seed); four
'ports,' three 'vans,' three 'smacks.' Other homonyms in the language
are the following: 'ash,' 'barb,' 'bark,' 'barnacle,' 'bat,' 'beam,'
'beetle,' 'bill,' 'bottle,' 'bound,' 'breeze,' 'bugle,' 'bull,' 'cape,'
'caper,' 'chap,' 'cleave,' 'club,' 'cob,' 'crab,' 'cricket,' 'crop,'
'crowd,' 'culver,' 'dam,' 'elder,' 'flag,' 'fog,' 'fold,' 'font,'
'fount,' 'gin,' 'gore,' 'grain,' 'grin,' 'gulf,' 'gum,' 'gust,' 'herd,'
'hind,' 'hip,' 'jade,' 'jar,' 'jet,' 'junk,' 'lawn,' 'lime,' 'link,'
'mace,' 'main,' 'mass,' 'mast,' 'match,' 'meal,' 'mint,' 'moor,'
'paddock,' 'painter,' 'pernicious,' 'plot,' 'pulse,' 'punch,' 'rush,'
'scale,' 'scrip,' 'shingle,' 'shock,' 'shrub,' 'smack,' 'soil,' 'stud,'
'swallow,' 'tap,' 'tent,' 'toil,' 'trinket,' 'turtle.' You will find it
profitable to follow these up at home, to trace out the two or more
words which have clothed themselves in exactly the same outward garb,
and on what etymologies they severally repose; so too, as often as you
suspect the existence of homonyms, to make proof of the matter for
yourselves, gradually forming as complete a list of these as you
can. [Footnote: For a nearly complete list of homonyms in English see
List of Homonyms at the end of Skeat's _Etym. Dict._; Kock's
_Historical Grammar of the English Language_, vol. i. p. 223; Mätzner's
_Engl. Grammatik_, vol. i. pp. 187-204; and compare Dwight's _Modern
Philology_, vol. ii. p. 311.] You may usefully do the same in any other
language which you study, for they exist in all. In them the identity
is merely on the surface and in sound, and it would, of course, be lost
labour to seek for a point of contact between meanings which have no
closer connexion with one another in reality than they have in

Let me suggest some further exercises in this region of words. There
are some which at once provoke and promise to reward inquiry, by the
evident readiness with which they will yield up the secret, if duly
interrogated by us. Many, as we have seen, have defied, and will
probably defy to the end, all efforts to dissipate the mystery which
hangs over them; and these we must be content to leave; but many
announce that their explanations cannot be very far to seek. Let me
instance 'candidate.' Does it not argue an incurious spirit to be
content that this word should be given and received by us a hundred
times, as at a contested election it is, and we never ask ourselves,
What does it mean? why is one offering himself to the choice of his
fellows called a 'candidate'? If the word lay evidently beyond our
horizon, we might acquiesce in our ignorance; but resting, as
manifestly it does, upon the Latin 'candidus,' it challenges inquiry,
and a very little of this would at once put us in possession of the
Roman custom for which it witnesses--namely, that such as intended to
claim the suffrages of the people for any of the chief offices of the
State, presented themselves beforehand to them in a _white_ toga, being
therefore called 'candidati.' And as it so often happens that in
seeking information upon one subject we obtain it upon another, so will
it probably be here; for in fully learning what this custom was, you
will hardly fail to learn how we obtained 'ambition,' what originally
it meant, and how Milton should have written--

'To reign is worth ambition, though in hell.

Or again, any one who knows so much as that 'verbum' means a word,
might well be struck by the fact (and if he followed it up would be led
far into the relation of the parts of speech to one another), that in
grammar it is not employed to signify any word whatsoever, but
restricted to the verb alone; 'verbum' is the verb. Surely here is
matter for reflection. What gives to the verb the right to monopolize
the dignity of being 'the word'? Is it because the verb is the
animating power, the vital principle of every sentence, and that
without which understood or uttered, no sentence can exist? or can you
offer any other reason? I leave this to your own consideration.

We call certain books 'classics.' We have indeed a double use of the
word, for we speak of the Greek and Latin as the 'classical' languages,
and the great writers in these as '_the_ classics'; while at other
times you hear of a 'classical' English style, or of English
'classics.' Now 'classic' is connected plainly with 'classis.' What
then does it mean in itself, and how has it arrived at this double use?
'The term is drawn from the political economy of Rome. Such a man was
rated as to his income in the third class, such another in the fourth,
and so on; but he who was in the highest was emphatically said to be of
_the_ class, "classicus"--a class man, without adding the number, as in
that case superfluous; while all others were infra classem. Hence, by
an obvious analogy, the best authors were rated as "classici," or men
of the highest class; just as in English we say "men of rank"
absolutely, for men who are in the highest ranks of the state.' The
mental process by which this title, which would apply rightly to the
best authors in _all_ languages, came to be restricted to those only in
two, and these two to be claimed, to the seeming exclusion of all
others, as _the_ classical languages, is one constantly recurring,
making itself felt in all regions of human thought; to which therefore
I would in passing call your attention, though I cannot now do more.

There is one circumstance which you must by no means suffer to escape
your own notice, nor that of your pupils--namely, that words out of
number, which are now employed only in a figurative sense, did yet
originally rest on some fact of the outward world, vividly presenting
itself to the imagination; which fact the word has incorporated and
knit up with itself for ever. If I may judge from my own experience,
few intelligent boys would not feel that they had gained something,
when made to understand that 'to insult' means properly to leap as on
the prostrate body of a foe; 'to affront,' to strike him on the face;
that 'to succour' means by running to place oneself under one that is
falling; 'to relent,' (connected with 'lentus,') to slacken the
swiftness of one's pursuit; [Footnote: 'But nothing might _relent_ his
hasty flight,' Spenser _F. Q._ iii. 4.] 'to reprehend,' to lay hold of
one with the intention of forcibly pulling him back; 'to exonerate,' to
discharge of a burden, ships being exonerated once; that 'to be
examined' means to be weighed. They would be pleased to learn that a
man is called 'supercilious,' because haughtiness with contempt of
others expresses itself by the raising of the eyebrows or
'supercilium'; that 'subtle' (subtilis for subtexilis) is literally
'fine-spun'; that 'astonished' (attonitus) is properly thunderstruck;
that 'sincere' is without wax, (sine cera,) as the best and finest
honey should be; that a 'companion,' probably at least, is one with
whom we share our bread, a messmate; that a 'sarcasm' is properly such
a lash inflicted by the 'scourge of the tongue' as brings away the
_flesh_ after it; with much more in the same kind.

'Trivial' is a word borrowed from the life. Mark three or four persons
standing idly at the point where one street bisects at right angles
another, and discussing there the idle nothings of the day; there you
have the living explanation of 'trivial,' 'trivialities,' such as no
explanation not rooting itself in the etymology would ever give you, or
enable you to give to others. You have there the 'tres viae,' the
'trivium'; and 'trivialities' properly mean such talk as is holden by
those idle loiterers that gather at this meeting of three
roads. [Footnote: But 'trivial' may be from 'trivium' in another sense;
that is, from the 'trivium,' or three preparatory disciplines,--grammar,
arithmetic, and geometry,--as distinguished from the four more advanced,
or 'quadrivium'; these and those together being esteemed in the Middle
Ages to constitute a complete liberal education. Preparatory schools
were often called '_trivial_ schools,' as occupying themselves with the
'trivium.'] 'Rivals' properly are those who dwell on the banks of the
same river. But as all experience shows, there is no such fruitful
source of contention as a water-right, and these would be often at
strife with one another in regard of the periods during which they
severally had a right to the use of the stream, turning it off into
their own fields before the time, or leaving open the sluices beyond
the time, or in other ways interfering, or being counted to interfere,
with the rights of their neighbours. And in this way 'rivals' came to
be applied to any who were on any grounds in unfriendly competition
with one another.

By such teaching as this you may often improve, and that without
turning play-time into lesson-time, the hours of relaxation and
amusement. But 'relaxation,' on which we have just lighted as by chance,
must not escape us. How can the bow be 'relaxed' or slackened (for this
is the image), which has not been bent, whose string has never been
drawn tight? Having drawn tight the bow of our mind by earnest toil, we
may then claim to have it from time to time 'relaxed.' Having been
attentive and assiduous then, but not otherwise, we may claim
'relaxation' and amusement. But 'attentive' and 'assiduous' are
themselves words which will repay us to understand exactly what they
mean. He is 'assiduous' who sits close to his work; he is 'attentive,'
who, being taught, stretches out his neck that so he may not lose a
word. 'Diligence' too has its lesson. Derived from 'diligo,' to love,
it reminds us that the secret of true industry in our work is love of
that work. And as truth is wrapped up in 'diligence,' what a lie, on
the other hand, lurks in 'indolence,' or, to speak more accurately, in
our present employment of it! This, from 'in' and 'doleo,' not to
grieve, is properly a state in which we have no grief or pain; and
employed as we now employ it, suggests to us that indulgence in sloth
constitutes for us the truest negation of pain. Now no one would wish
to deny that 'pain' and 'pains' are often nearly allied; but yet these
pains hand us over to true pleasures; while indolence is so far from
yielding that good which it is so forward to promise, that Cowper spoke
only truth, when, perhaps meaning to witness against the falsehood I
have just denounced, he spoke of

'Lives spent in _indolence_, and therefore _sad_,'

not 'therefore _glad_,' as the word 'indolence' would fain have us to

There is another way in which these studies I have been urging may be
turned to account. Doubtless you will seek to cherish in your scholars,
to keep lively in yourselves, that spirit and temper which find a
special interest in all relating to the land of our birth, that land
which the providence of God has assigned as the sphere of our life's
task and of theirs. Our schools are called 'national,' [Footnote: This
was written in England, and in the year 1851.] and if we would have
them such in reality, we must neglect nothing that will foster a
national spirit in them. I know not whether this is sufficiently
considered among us; yet certainly we cannot have Church-schools worthy
the name, least of all in England, unless they are truly national as
well. It is the anti-national character of the Roman Catholic system
which perhaps more than all else offends Englishmen; and if their sense
of this should ever grow weak, their protest against that system would
soon lose much of its energy and strength. But here, as everywhere else,
knowledge must be the food of love. Your pupils must know something
about England, if they are to love it; they must see some connexion of
its past with its present, of what it has been with what it is, if they
are to feel that past as anything to them.

And as no impresses of the past are so abiding, so none, when once
attention has been awakened to them, are so self-evident as those which
names preserve; although, without this calling of the attention to them,
the most broad and obvious of these foot-prints which the past time has
left may continue to escape our observation to the end of our lives.
Leibnitz tells us, and one can quite understand, the delight with which
a great German Emperor, Maximilian I., discovered that 'Habsburg,' or
'Hapsburg,' the ancestral name of his house, really had a meaning, one
moreover full of vigour and poetry. This he did, when he heard it by
accident on the lips of a Swiss peasant, no longer cut short and thus
disguised, but in its original fulness, 'Habichtsburg,' or 'Hawk's-
Tower,' being no doubt the name of the castle which was the cradle of
his race. [Footnote: _Opp._ vol. vi. pt. 2. p. 20.] Of all the thousands
of Englishmen who are aware that Angles and Saxons established
themselves in this island, and that we are in the main descended from
them, it would be curious to know how many have realized to themselves
a fact so obvious as that this 'England' means 'Angle-land,' or that in
the names 'Essex,' 'Sussex,' and 'Middlesex,' we preserve a record of
East Saxons, South Saxons, and Middle Saxons, who occupied those
several portions of the land; or that 'Norfolk' and 'Suffolk' are two
broad divisions of 'northern' and 'southern folk,' into which the East
Anglian kingdom was divided. 'Cornwall' does not bear its origin quite
so plainly upon its front, or tell its story so that every one who runs
may read. At the same time its secret is not hard to attain to. As the
Teutonic immigrants advanced, such of the British population as were
not either destroyed or absorbed by them retreated, as we all have
learned, into Wales and Cornwall, that is, till they could retreat no
further. The fact is evidently preserved in the name of 'Wales', which
means properly 'The foreigners,'--the nations of Teutonic blood calling
all bordering tribes by this name. But though not quite so apparent on
the surface, this fact is also preserved in 'Cornwall', written
formerly 'Cornwales', or the land inhabited by the Welsh of the Corn or
Horn. The chroniclers uniformly speak of North Wales and Corn-Wales.
[Footnote: See _Anglo-Saxon Chronicle_, year 997, where mention is made
of the _Cornwealas_, the Cornish people.] These Angles, Saxons, and
Britons or Welshmen, about whom our pupils may be reading, will be to
them more like actual men of flesh and blood, who indeed trod this same
soil which we are treading now, when we can thus point to traces
surviving to the present day, which they have left behind them, and
which England, as long as it is England, will retain.

The Danes too have left their marks on the land. We all probably, more
or less, are aware how much Danish blood runs in English veins; what
large colonies from Scandinavia (for as many may have come from Norway
as from modern Denmark), settled in some parts of this island. It will
be interesting to show that the limits of this Danish settlement and
occupation may even now be confidently traced by the constant
recurrence in all such districts of the names of towns and villages
ending in 'by,' which signified in their language a dwelling or single
village; as Nether_by_, Apple_by_, Der_by_, Whit_by_, Rug_by_. Thus if
you examine closely a map of Lincolnshire, one of the chief seats of
the Danish settlement, you will find one hundred, or well nigh a fourth
part, of the towns and villages to have this ending, the whole coast
being studded with them--they lie nearly as close to one another as in
Sleswick itself; [Footnote: Pott, _Etym. Forsch._ vol. ii. pt. 2,
p.1172] while here in Hampshire 'by' as such a termination, is utterly
unknown. Or again, draw a line transversely through England from
Canterbury by London to Chester, the line, that is, of the great Roman
road, called Watling Street, and north of this six hundred instances of
the occurrence of the same termination may be found, while to the south
there are almost none. 'Thorpe,' equivalent to the German 'dorf' as
Bishops_thorpe_, Al_thorp_, tells the same tale of a Norse occupation
of the soil; and the terminations, somewhat rarer, of 'thwaite,'
'haugh,' 'garth,' 'ness,' do the same no less. On the other hand, where,
as in this south of England, the 'hams' abound (the word is identical
with our 'home'), as Bucking_ham_, Eg_ham_, Shore_ham_, there you may
be sure that not Norsemen but West Germans took possession of the soil.
'Worth,' or 'worthy,' tells the same story, as Bos_worth_,
Kings_worthy_; [Footnote: See Sweet's _Oldest English Texts_ (index).]
the 'stokes' in like manner, as Basing_stoke_, Itchen_stoke_, are Saxon,
being (as some suppose) places _stock_aded, with stocks or piles for
defence. You are yourselves learning, or hereafter you may be teaching
others, the names and number of the English counties or shires. What a
dull routine task for them and for you this may be, supplying no food
for the intellect, no points of attachment for any of its higher powers
to take hold of! And yet in these two little words, 'shire' and
'county,' if you would make them render up even a small part of their
treasure, what lessons of English history are contained! One who knows
the origin of these names, and how we come to possess such a double
nomenclature, looks far into the social condition of England in that
period when the strong foundations of all that has since made England
glorious and great were being laid; by aid of these words may detect
links which bind its present to its remotest past; for of lands as of
persons it may be said, 'the child is father of the man,' 'Shire' is
connected with 'shear,' 'share,' and is properly a portion 'shered' or
'shorn' off. [Footnote: It must be confessed that there are insuperable
difficulties in the way of connecting Anglo-Saxon _scir_ with the verb
_sceron_, to shear, and of explaining it as equivalent to 'shorn off.'
The derivation of 'shire' has not yet been ascertained.] When a Saxon
king would create an earl, it did not lie in men's thoughts, accustomed
as they were to deal with realities, that such could be a merely
titular creation, or exist without territorial jurisdiction; and a
'share' or 'shire' was assigned him to govern, which also gave him his
title. But at the Conquest this Saxon officer was displaced by a Norman,
the 'earl' by the 'count'--this title of 'count,' borrowed from the
later Roman empire, meaning originally 'companion' (comes), one who had
the honour of being closest companion to his leader; and the 'shire'
was now the 'county' (comitatus), as governed by this 'comes.' In that
singular and inexplicable fortune of words, which causes some to
disappear and die out under the circumstances apparently most
favourable for life, others to hold their ground when all seemed
against them, 'count' has disappeared from the titles of English
nobility, while 'earl' has recovered its place; although in evidence of
the essential identity of the two titles, or offices rather, the wife
of the earl is entitled a 'countess'; and in further memorial of these
great changes that so long ago came over our land, the two names
'shire' and 'county' equally survive as in the main interchangeable
words in our mouths.

A large part of England, all that portion of it which the Saxons
occupied, is divided into 'hundreds'. Have you ever asked yourselves
what this division means, for something it must mean? The 'hundred' is
supposed to have been originally a group or settlement of one hundred
free families of Saxon incomers. If this was so, we have at once an
explanation of the strange disproportion between the area of the
'hundred' in the southern and in the more northern counties--the
average number of square miles in a 'hundred' of Sussex or Kent being
about four and twenty; of Lancashire more than three hundred. The Saxon
population would naturally be far the densest in the earlier
settlements of the east and south, while more to west and north their
tenure would be one rather of conquest than of colonization, and the
free families much fewer and more scattered. [Footnote: Kemble, _The
Saxons in England_, vol. i. p. 420; Stubbs, _Constitutional History of
England,_ p. 98.] But further you have noticed, I dare say, the
exceptional fact that the county of Sussex, besides the division into
hundreds, is divided also into six 'rapes'; thus the 'rape' of Bramber
and so on. [This 'rape' is connected by Lappenberg, ii. 405 (1881),
with the Icel. _hreppr_, which according to the Grágás was a district
in which twenty or more peasants maintained one poor person].

Let us a little consider, in conclusion, how we may usefully bring our
etymologies and other notices of words to bear on the religious
teaching which we would impart in our schools. To do this with much
profit we must often deal with words as the Queen does with the gold
and silver coin of the realm. When this has been current long, and by
often passing from man to man, with perhaps occasional clipping in
dishonest hands, has lost not only the clear brightness, the well-
defined sharpness of outline, but much of the weight and intrinsic
value which it had when first issued from the royal mint, it is the
sovereign's prerogative to recall it, and issue it anew, with the royal
image stamped on it afresh, bright and sharp, weighty and full, as at
first. Now to a process such as this the true mint-masters of language,
and all of us may be such, will often submit the words which they use.
Where use and custom have worn away their significance, we too may
recall and issue them afresh. With how many it has thus fared!--for
example, with one which will be often in your mouths. You speak of the
'lessons' of the day; but what is 'lessons' here for most of us save a
lazy synonym for the morning and evening chapters appointed to be read
in church? But realize what the Church intended in calling these
chapters by this name; namely, that they should be the daily
instruction of her children; listen to them yourselves as such; lead
your scholars to regard them as such, and in this use of 'lessons' what
a lesson for every one of us there may be! [Footnote: [Still
etymologically _lessons_ mean simply 'readings, the word representing
French _leçons_ = Latin _lectiones_.]] 'Bible' itself, while we not
irreverently use it, may yet be no more to us than the verbal sign by
which we designate the written Word of God. Keep in mind that it
properly means 'the book' and nothing more; that once it could be
employed of any book (in Chaucer it is so), and what matter of thought
and reflection lies in this our present restriction of 'bible' to one
book, to the exclusion of all others! So strong has been the sense of
Holy Scripture being '_the_ Book,' the worthiest and best, that book
which explains all other books, standing up in their midst,--like
Joseph's kingly sheaf, to which all the other sheaves did obeisance,--
that this name of 'Bible' or 'Book' has been restrained to it alone:
just as 'Scripture' means no more than 'writing'; but this inspired
Writing has been acknowledged so far above all other writings, that
this name also it has obtained as exclusively its own.

Again, something may be learned from knowing that the 'surname,' as
distinguished from the 'Christian' name, is the name over and above,
not 'sire'-name, or name received from the father, as some explain, but
'sur'-name (super nomen). There was never, that is, a time when every
baptized man had not a Christian name, the recognition of his personal
standing before God; while the surname, the name expressing his
relation, not to the kingdom of God, but to a worldly society, is of
much later growth, super-added to the other, as the word itself
declares. What a lesson at once in the growing up of a human society,
and in the contrast between it and the heavenly Society of the Church,
might be appended to this explanation! There was a period when only a
few had surnames; had, that is, any significance in the order of things
temporal; while the Christian name from the first was the possession of
every baptized man. All this might be brought usefully to bear on your
exposition of the first words in the Catechism.

There are long words from the Latin which, desire as we may to use all
plainness of speech, we cannot do without, nor find their adequate
substitutes in homelier parts of our language; words which must always
remain the vehicles of much of that truth whereby we live. Now in
explaining these, make it your rule always to start, where you can,
from the derivation, and to return to that as often as you can. Thus
you wish to explain 'revelation.' How much will be gained if you can
attach some distinct image to the word, one to which your scholars, as
often as they hear it, may mentally recur. Nor is this difficult. God's
'revelation' of Himself is a drawing back of the veil or curtain which
concealed Him from men; not man finding out God, but God discovering
Himself to man; all which is contained in the word. Or you wish to
explain 'absolution.' Many will know that it has something to do with
the pardon of sins; but how much more accurately will they know this,
when they know that 'to absolve' means 'to loosen from': God's
'absolution' of men being his releasing of them from the bands of those
sins with which they were bound. Here every one will connect a distinct
image with the word, such as will always come to his help when he would
realize what its precise meaning may be. That which was done for
Lazarus naturally, the Lord exclaiming, 'Loose him, and let him go,'
the same is done spiritually for us, when we receive the 'absolution'
of our sins.

Tell your scholars that 'atonement' means 'at-one-ment'--the setting at
one of those who were at twain before, namely God and man, and they
will attach to 'atonement' a definite meaning, which perhaps in no way
else it would have possessed for them; and, starting from this point,
you may muster the passages in Scripture which describe the sinner's
state as one of separation, estrangement, alienation, from God, the
Christian's state as one in which he walks together with God, because
the two have been set 'at one.' Or you have to deal with the following,
'to redeem,' 'Redeemer,' 'redemption.' Lose not yourselves in vague
generalities, but fasten on the central point of these, that they imply
a 'buying,' and not this merely, but a 'buying back'; and then connect
with them, so explained, the whole circle of statements in Scripture
which rest on this image, which speak of sin as a slavery, of sinners
as bondsmen of Satan, of Christ's blood as a ransom, of the Christian
as one restored to his liberty.

Many words more suggest themselves; I will not urge more than one; but
that one, because in it is a lesson more for ourselves than for others,
and with such I would fain bring these lectures to a close. How solemn
a truth we express when we name our work in this world our 'vocation,'
or, which is the same in homelier Anglo-Saxon, our 'calling.' What a
calming, elevating, ennobling view of the tasks appointed us in this
world, this word gives us. We did not come to our work by accident; we
did not choose it for ourselves; but, in the midst of much which may
wear the appearance of accident and self-choosing, came to it by God's
leading and appointment. How will this consideration help us to
appreciate justly the dignity of our work, though it were far humbler
work, even in the eyes of men, than that of any one of us here present!
What an assistance in calming unsettled thoughts and desires, such as
would make us wish to be something else than that which we are! What a
source of confidence, when we are tempted to lose heart, and to doubt
whether we shall carry through our work with any blessing or profit to
ourselves or to others! It is our 'vocation,' not our choosing but our
'calling'; and He who 'called' us to it, will, if only we will ask Him,
fit us for it, and strengthen us in it.


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