from North American Bird Folknames and Names by James K. Sayre

Copyright 1996. All Rights Reserved.


Etymology of Bird Names


Etymology is the study of the origins of words. Since this book is written in English about bird names that are almost all in English, this discussion will deal with the origins of Modern English words. The word etymology itself is derived as follows: [Middle English etymologicus, Old French etymologicus, Latin etymologia and Greek etymologia. Its roots are Greek etumon, literal sense of a word + -o -logy, a science or branch of knowledge]. The etymology of the word English itself, is described as follows: [Middle English English, Englische, Old English Englise, Ænglise, Englisc, from Engle, Ængle, plural, the Angles]. Similarly, the etymology of the word England is similarly derived: [England, Old English Engla + land, the land of the Angles].

Modern English, (A. D. 1780 - date), traces its roots directly back to Early Modern English, (A.D. 1500 - 1780), Middle English, (A. D. 1100 - 1500), and Old English, (A. D. 450 - 1100). Old English used to be called Anglo-Saxon. Some experts put the division between Old English and Middle English at 1066, the date of the successful Norman invasion. Old English is one of the West Germanic languages. Old High German gave rise to High German. Low German gave rise to Old Frisian, which gave rise to Frisian, Old English which gave rise to Middle English, Old Saxon which gave rise to Plattdeutsch, and Low Frankish, which gave rise to Dutch and Flemish.

Latin, the predecessor to the modern Romance languages, which include French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian is the other great source of words in modern English. Latin itself has been characterized as having several stages including Early Latin, Latin, Vulgar Latin, Late (or Medieval) Latin and Modern Latin. Much of the early infusion of Latin into English came after the Norman invasion and conquest of England in 1066.



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