Etymology is Great Fun!


Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt. 


I know what the word can mean today, from conjuring up a delicious meal to conjuring a good story (or lie), or doing magic tricks. But of course, as always, I’m curious about the original meanings of words and how they came to mean to us what they do today.  So, of course, I looked it up 🙂

Middle English (also in the sense ‘oblige by oath’): from Old French conjurer‘to plot or exorcize,’ from Latin conjurare ‘band together by an oath, conspire’ (in medieval Latin ‘invoke’), from con- ‘together’ + jurare ‘swear.’
Isn’t that interesting?  We often think of the prefix con as being against something. But it can also mean together, as in congregate, or Congress, or convene.  Combined with jurare, to swear or make an oath,  the word became to come together to make an oath, to conspire, to plot or exorcise, or to oblige by oath. 
Now the question is, how did all that come to be associated with magic?  The answer lies around 1300 a.d  when the magical sense came to be  “constraining by spell” a demon to do one’s bidding.
Well, that  certainly doesn’t go along with pulling rabbits out of hats and making flowers out of silks, does it?  Who among us would hire a person who constrains a demon to do his bidding at a children’s birthday party?
It often surprises me how words that had rather dark origins can come to mean something so lighthearted as doing simple “magic” tricks for entertainment. Sleight of hand requires hours and hours of practice to perfect, and I have a lot of admiration for people who can make quarters appear out of their thumbs 🙂
I have wondered, though, about those who put on elaborate shows that truly don’t have any discernible logical explanation but are vastly entertaining.
Right now, I need to conjure up the energy to go do some laundry.  Nothing magical about that!

6 thoughts on “Etymology is Great Fun!

  1. You are right – words and their origins are fascinating. Have you ever looked in the Oxford Dictionary – the complete one? It gives the changes in words over time and references to where these can be found. Awful originally meaning full of awe – the opposite of today. It still happens of course to be special these days can be an insult can’t it!

    Liked by 1 person

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