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English Language :: Original Words that are in English

Updated on September 11, 2011

English Language :: Echoes From Nature

The original way of making words is by imitating the sounds of nature. The Greeks named this onomatopoeia and simpler still as echoic .

Every sound of nature, technology and more specifically man has it's own word:

  • screech, squeal, cluck, howl, hiss, buzz
  • clatter, splash, crash, swish, squelch, crunch, thud, creak, rumble
  • mutter, murmur, whisper, shriek, hubbub
  • zoom, judder, bleep.

There are hundreds of these imitative words.

English Language :: Creature Names

Many creatures are named from their cries:

  • cuckoo, peewit, crow (earlier the craw)

but most were named in millennia past and sound changes over the intervening times have obscured their origin. As with pictograms which started life as object representations they have been simplified. A few strokes then became the symbols for sounds. Thence the words that are available to us today must differ greatly from their earliest forms.

  • The bear (Old English bera) resembles closely the 'B_r_r' that could represent its growl, especially when one considers that it is only recently that the English 'r' has ceased to be rolled.
  • The wolf had a long -oo- sound (now shortened) which echoes the howl: w-o-o-lf.

English Language :: Elementals

How did man come up with words for elemental forces and concepts?

  • Day and night
  • Sun and moon
is maybe beyond our capabilities to fathom but we may detect an echoic sound in 'wind'. This is an ancient word, as might be expected, cognate with but not descended from the Latin (ventus), that is descended from an earlier root. Many such must have been spoken by Stone Age man in Europe before they divided into separate nations.
Thunder grew out of a natural sound. Early Britons named one of their gods Thunor (better known as Thor in Scandinavia). In Old English thunor was also a common noun and in due course acquired a 'd' which made the sound even more life-like.

The History of the English Language

English Language :: Facial Expressions

Some English words seem to have been created such that their speaking causes the expression they are defining to be formed:

  • snarl, sneer, smirk, smile (formerly pronounced smeel).
Smile may remind us of laugh which in Old English was hlaehhan. 'Hl' was a common starting combination for words with the 'h' being a strong sound. Using all three 'h' sounds with their original emphasis gives a much more hilarious sounding word.
The combination of 'sn' as a word beginning is strongly connected with the nose:
  • sneeze, sniff, snigger. snivel, snore, snort, snout, snuffle
With some we wrinkle our nose in distaste. Men have never liked snakes. Sneak suggests a stealthy movement. To snoop is unpleasant as too the epithet snide. The latter two come from America but were created in the same tradition. Snob is first recorded as slang for cobbler but is much better at describing one who turns up his nose at others and is disliked for it. Snooty also describes this attribute. The way modern words have been coined shows that old sound associations and ideas are still flourishing.

English Language :: Physical Actions

Another combination of beginning letters, 'wr', must have been expressive of some physical action. This is remote in its origins and perhaps lost to us now as the 'w' has long been silent. To sound the 'w' and roll the 'r' in its original form conveys a violent and angry attribute:

  • wrestle, wrest, wreak, wrath, wreck, wretched, wretch

Many 'wr' words describe a twisting or turning motion:

  • writhe, wreathe, wriggle, wrangle, wrench, wring, wrung, wrong, wry, wrist, writing, wrap, wrought (Old English wyrcan - past tense of to work).

It can be conjectured that the 'wr' sound emanated from a man undertaking extreme physical effort and that once within the parlance of the age was extended and manipulated to give a different sound and sense.

Another letter combination giving a sense of movement is 'fl':

  • fly, flit, float, flutter, flow, flip, flap, flop and even more recently flip-flops.

English Language Origins :: Mongrel Nation

English Language :: A Question of Endings

Why are toddle and waddle so expressively correct for inaccurate walking?

Why is twaddle so obviously stupid and silly?

Why do words ending in -ump express solid action or item? An echo of the original thump perhaps?

Why are -ick and -ike so sharp?

It is not rational but a creative instinct for man to associate sounds with things and that when a sound is pleasing it is reiterated but with variation.

English Language :: Rhyming

The taste for rhyming end sounds in English post-dates the the habit of repeating initial sounds. Rhymes are almost unknown in Anglo-Saxon poetry. The chief cause of pleasure was in alliteration. Rhyming is post-Conquest. Those words linked by the same beginning have come to us from antiquity. In spite of this there is still a tendency to make new words this way.


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    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Glenn, I have found that dyslexics do not 'see' words i.e. the letters that form the words, in their brain. Also, those without reading skills i.e. generally children under 5, will neither.

      Thinking is just 5% conscious, 95% subconscious. So, my take is that thinking does not require words, but articulating the thought by voice or writing does.

      There is much research being done on how the subconscious brain works. My view, for what it's worth is that it works in video, with some slo-mo and some stills.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      I had been researching how people think, if language is needed or not. I was considering if thoughts need to be constructed in our minds with words or if we think in the abstract.

      So coming across your Hub on words really peaked my interest. I learned a lot from you. I never thought about the fact that there are words for all sounds. But I see it’s true. And I also find it interesting that English words starting with “sn” tend to be related to the nose.

      I wonder if other languages have similar situations? I find the evolution of language to be an interesting subject.

      Thanks for writing about this in a well-constructed essay. Voted up and interesting.

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the nice post

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Jandee, the Cornish language (Kernewek) is a 'P' Celtic language (Brythonic). It was the language spoken prior to the Roman invasion. It is related to all other Celtic languages but especially Welsh and Breton. We British are not really the real British - the Celts are. English are realy of Germanic descent.

    • jandee profile image

      jandee 7 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      Hello humagaia,

      Just like to say through reading it it made me inquisitive about the Cornish language which is'Wow'.

      I thought 'Hi' was a slang word from U.S.? Thanks for making me think for a while,


    • dashingclaire profile image

      dashingclaire 7 years ago from United States

      Interesting hub because here in the US we speak American! I guess at one time it was English n_n

    • humagaia profile image

      Charles Fox 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Perhaps you have a memory of a previous spelling!

    • jandee profile image

      jandee 7 years ago from Liverpool.U.K

      How dopey of meeee!! in my haste I forgot the RRRRRRRR in perverse,jandee

    • profile image

      jandee 7 years ago

      Loved it but as my character is pervese I will have to return when I am free from pressure on my time in order to analyse..