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  Etymology
Updated 27 November 2001, 13.20
An alligator
An alligator

Learning objectives / outcomes

  • To explore the origins of some English words
  • To learn the meaning of the word 'etymology'
  • To understand the etymological function of a dictionary
Introduction
Explain to the class that the words we use today have come to us from all sorts of places and languages and that they will use dictionaries to find out not what words mean but where they originally came from.

Introduce the word 'etymology' as the study of the origins of words.
(You may wish to ensure everyone can pronounce it properly too!)

Read through with the children the story 'Pet alligator causes panic'.

Fact File
Etymology of 'alligator'
'Alligator' was originally a Latin word 'lacertus'
This became the Spanish words for 'the lizard' which is 'el lagarto'
This then became known as 'alligator' in English

Highlight the word 'alligator' and ask the class if they can guess how this word came about.

Give out good quality dictionaries and ask the class to find the word 'alligator' and its etymology.

Main activity
Click the resources link on the right to view suggestions for useful images to help the children.

Children guess the origins of these words first and then use their dictionaries to research their etymologies:

  • adder - Old English 'naedre' meaning snake
  • atlas - Greek god's name, often shown carrying the world on his shoulders
  • thug - Indian word for 'assassin'
  • bungalow - Indian for a 'one-storey house'
  • crater - Greek 'krater' meaning 'mixing bowl'
  • genie - Latin 'genius' meaning 'guardian spirit'
  • limbo - Latin 'limbus' meaning the place where souls go that cannot enter heaven
  • salary - Latin 'sal' meaning 'salt'. Roman soldiers were paid with salt
  • style - Latin 'stylus' meaning a pointed instrument used for writing
  • pandemonium - Greek 'pan' and Latin 'daemonium' meaning demon. Used as the capital of Hell in 'Paradise Lost' a poem by John Milton
  • papier-mache - French meaning 'chewed paper'
  • vandal - Latin meaning a member of a Germanic people that sacked Rome in 455 AD
  • butler - Old French 'bouteillier' meaning 'bottle bearer'
  • denim - French 'serge de Nīmes', a type of cloth from Nīmes
  • hamburger - German 'Hamburger steak' meaning meat from Hamburg
  • ketchup - Chinese meaning 'fish sauce'
  • magazine - French 'magasin' meaning 'storehouse'
  • monster - Latin 'monere' meaning 'to warn'

Extension activity
Children can collate their own research words with their etymologies.

Plenary
Recap on the definition of 'etymology' and hear their children's own findings.


More InfoBORDER=0
TeachersResources: Images for etymology
AnimalsPet alligator causes panic

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