Monday, April 25, 2011

Word of the Week - Understand

I can't say as I've ever understood why, when we comprehend something, we stand under it. So this week we're working to understand the word understand. =)

According to the wonderful world of www.etymonline.com (one of the best resources IN THE UNIVERSE!), this word, which has been in the English language pretty much since the English language has been, carries an old sense of "standing in the midst of." And if you're in the midst of it, you get it.

Now, the "under" is the tricky part. Etymonline quotes a few different expert opinions on why it's "under." They all agree it isn't "under" as in beneath, but rather as in "between, among." Take, as a modern day idiom that has survived with this meaning, the example "Under such circumstances." We don't mean we're literally under these circumstances, but rather in the midst of them.

Some other Germanic languages have a word that means "stand before" rather than "stand under," but ultimately the idea comes back to truly comprehending something when you're very near it.

Understand? ;-)

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I love words, their meanings and roots too. Thanks for the post.

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