Monday, August 1, 2016

Word of the Week - Class


Class. It seems like a simple word. One that has surely been around forever, right? Well, I looked it up last week because I wanted to make sure that classy was in use for a story. And instead I learned that the whole word was rather surprising.

Class comes from the Latin classis, which is the word for how Servius Tullius divided the Roman people for purposes of taxation. This also had something to do with how the people were called to arms, which is the original meaning (and spelling) carried into English first. It wasn't until around 1600 that it was shortened to class . . . at which point it meant a group of students.

In the 1650s, class was expanded from the group of students to mean a course or lecture students might take in school--based on the idea that it required reaching a certain academic level.

In 1705, the word became a verb--"to divide into classes." In 1753, scientists began talking about classes of plants and animals.

But it wasn't until 1772 that class began to mean "divisions of society according to status." I was really surprised it was that late! And so, the notion of class being "high quality" was unheard of until the 1840s. My classy, therefore, didn't come around until the 1890s.

2 comments:

  1. That's fascinating! I love your word origin stories!

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