English Words from Athens and Rome

(A history of the English Language)

Classical word sources include Latin and Greek Elements in lists of prefixes and roots needed as a vocabulary foundation for English speakers, writers, and readers.

Events that have had profound influences on English:

  • The English we speak is not the fruit of a deliberate human design: it is the sum total of a long series of historical accidents.
  • The panoramic future of men, nations, races, religions, and languages, often depends on the cast of a die, the turn of a card, the whim of a historical moment.
  • It is chance that makes history, unless you want to accept the doctrine of predestination.
  • The English language of today reflects many centuries of development.
  • The political and social events that have in the course of English history so profoundly affected the English people in their national life have generally had a recognizable effect on their language.
  • The Christianizing of Britain in 597 brought England into contact with Latin civilization and made significant additions to our vocabulary.
  • The Scandinavian invasions resulted in a considerable mixture of the two races and their languages.
  • If the charge of Harold’s men at Hastings had not been broken by the showers of Norman arrows raining from the sky, our tongue today might be as close to German as is Dutch, or closer.
  • The Norman Conquest made English for two centuries the language mainly of the lower classes, while the nobles and those associated with them used French on almost all occasions.
  • When English once more regained supremacy as the language of all elements of the population it was an English greatly changed in both form and vocabulary from what it had been in 1066.
  • In a similar way, the Hundred Years’ War, the rise of an important middle class, the Renaissance, the development of England as a maritime power, the expansion of the British Empire, and the growth of commerce and industry, of science and literature, have, each in its way, contributed to make the English language what it is today.
  • It is reasonable to assume that liberally educated people should know something about the structure of English, its position in the world and its relation to other tongues, the wealth of its vocabulary together with the sources from which that vocabulary has been and is being enriched, and in general the great political, social, and cultural influences that have combined to make English what it is.

A son was talking to his father about changes in vocabulary

Calvin was saying:

  • "Hey Dad, know what I figured out! The meaning of words isn't a fixed thing! Any word can mean anything."
  • "By giving words new meanings, ordinary English can become an exclusionary code! Two generations can be divided by the same language!"
  • "To that end, I'll be inventing new definitions for common words, so we won't be able to communicate with each other."
  • "Don't you think that's totally spam? Its lubricated! Well, I'm phasing."
  • His father responded with:

  • "Marvy. Fab far out."

Go to this English History and Its Language Development INDEX so you can see more information about English history.