Humankind has been communicating since our beginning. And we invented and used words long before we ever wrote them down.
As human beings began to evolve a vocabulary to express their thoughts, they also began to travel, and many traveled far. As they went into new territories, with them they brought new words and, once there, they also discovered and started using countless new ones. So, words made many journeys as well.
And as they traveled, words changed their meanings. And as thousands of years moved forward and new generations used them, words changed their meanings yet more times.
It can be very surprising to open a dictionary and discover a word has many definitions. And even more surprising to discover all the definitions it has had in the past.
To study a word is to study humankind. It’s to glimpse generations of humanity explore, share, borrow and endlessly communicate rich concepts across wide spans of time and geography.
Hefty dictionaries lend themselves to this deep exploration. They do justice to the robust, complex concepts words embody.
Recently I was doing a deep dive into words and fell in love with one I’ve known a long time, but never fully appreciated. Surprisingly, this word is aggressive.
In Latin it meant simply to take a step toward something, to approach it. That is all it meant back then. Simply, to approach, to come nearer.
Aggressive experienced a metamorphosis as this word crossed oceans and centuries.
We find it in the 1961 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (estimated weight 15 pounds) as bold determination, enterprising.
Enterprising is a word I’ve heard often, but I never use it and so decided to explore its essence.
I fell head over heels in love with the meaning: characterized by a bold daring energetic spirit or by independence or originality of thought.
All that in one word! I love the person who deserves this word!!!!!
Enterprising is still considered good. However, some of these bold and daring aggressive folks plainly used too much force and upset others, because aggressive has come to mean hostile and offensive, which is what it often means today. Clearly not desirable qualities or actions.
Although not often used this way, aggressive can also simply mean courageous, unrestrained energy, determination and initiative to boldly and causatively step forth and make something happen. Beautiful.
I love reading the old dictionaries for I find a sense of romance and adventure that is lost in modern ones.
Wishing you beautiful enterprising moments of bold daring in your own life, moments you feel fully alive!
4 thoughts on “Words over time”
Thank you so much. It was beautiful! It really set the tone for my day today. Thank you for sharing!
OTC Chair Stevens Creek
I’m delighted you enjoyed it, Angelika!
I love looking up derivations and this was a delight!
That’s wonderful, Marcelle! I’m very delighted to hear!