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The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology (Wordsworth Reference) [Paperback]

Walter W. Skeat
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Nov 1993 Wordsworth Reference

Walter Skeat (1835-1912) was one of the greatest investigators of the roots of the English language, and his remarkable scholarship was instrumental in the revival of the great works of early English Literature. His edition of Piers Plowman appeared in 1867, and The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer in 1894-97.

His Etymological Dictionary, the first of its kind, was published in 1882, and the Concise edition two years later.

Skeat's researches inspired those of later philologists and lexicographers such as James Murray, C.T. Onions and Eric Partridge, and his astonishing detective work into the origins and development of the world's most widely used language provides an unsurpassed guide to its flexibility and richness.



Product details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd; New edition edition (25 Nov 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1853263117
  • ISBN-13: 978-1853263118
  • Product Dimensions: 19.7 x 12.8 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,292 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential for any English speaker's bookshelf 4 May 2010
By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
W. W. Skeat was a leading light in the history of scholarship on the English language, and this book is one of the fruits of his labour. The origins of thousands of English words are given not just in reference to attested ancestral forms and known cognates, but also giving the postulated Indo-European root from whence they all came where applicable, thus supplying more information than any standard dictionary would.

Short appendices include prefixes and suffixes, Indo-European roots, homonyms and doublets (two different words with the same origin), and a section "distribution of words according to their derivation" which considers the languages from which English has taken words, along with many specific examples having taken some considerably tortuous routes via several languages.

Because this work is now a century old, it does not of course include many neologisms from the intervening period, and continuing scholarship may have different things to say about the origins of some words. For example Skeat has "orchard" as coming from a pure Old English combination "wyrt" + "geard", whereas more modern works tend to have this as Latin "hortus" + Old English "geard" > "ortgeard" > "orchard".

Archaisms include Skeat's use of the obsolete terms "Aryan" for what today we call "Indo-European" and "Anglo-Saxon" where today we would say "Old English", plus roots are written square root prefixed and capitalised, for example "√'BHA", whereas the modern system would write "*bha-"; for some reason, in the main body of the text the square root sign has not appeared in the printing, leaving an odd-looking space. Victorian sensibilities mean the lack of any naughty words - well, as Blackadder said to Dr Johnson, that's what every dictionary will be used for.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Showis its age! 29 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
I think the repackaging of a book first published in 1884, in a smart new edition, is a bit of a con.

Anyone interested in English etymology might reasonably expect from the title of this book, and its smart contemporary cover,to be a modern work, and would be grievously disappointed if they start to use it as a practical guide to the origins of modern English.

This is not to disparage Skeat, who was after all one of the great pioneers of English etymology, and recognized as such by later scholars in this field such as Murray, Onions and Partridge (as the back cover points out).

Like most sciences, however, etymology has moved on, and Skeat is of limited value for practical modern use. Indeed it seems rather quaint today, and many words, especially foreign imports, are not dealt with, even though they must have been current in the English of his day.

I'm glad I now have a copy of this seminal work, but I don't expect to use it except to make historical comparisons, especially as some of its apparently authoritative roots are not considered correct, e.g. 'drub', 'girl', 'boy', 'strawberry'.

A comparison might be if one bought a late 19th-century book about physics, or evolution. Interesting, but hardly authoritative.

The fact that Skeat is now out of copyright must have been a major attraction to the publishers of this edition!
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I carry this book around in my car, and have the unabridged in my office. They are incredibly useful source of insight - listen to the words people emphasize or repeat, then look them up here for "the rest of the story". The best of many etymological dictionaries out there for this use.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful for insight into people's "real" meaning. 1 Mar 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I carry this book around in my car, and have the unabridged in my office. They are incredibly useful source of insight - listen to the words people emphasize or repeat, then look them up here for "the rest of the story". The best of many etymological dictionaries out there for this use.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Origins of Words 22 May 2011
By Poetical Psyche - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This won't be a long review. This book is not for everyone. It is for anyone who finds the roots and origins of language interesting. If you write you could find tremendous value in exploring word origination, and how words have evolved and changed throughout time. Outside of being interested in this type of reference material, I don't know why you'd purchase it. I do find word origins very interesting, therefore I rate this book very highly for it's process and depth of information.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For Lovers of James Joyce and Poetry 27 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you love or like James Joyce, you'll love this book. It was his favorite book. It is a benefit to have this book when reading _Ulysses_ or _Finnegans Wake_. And for any poet in love with language, this book is vital.
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic undeservedly out of the limelight... 6 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was the vade mecum of Stephen Daedalus--as well as many non-fictional others in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. True, there's no entry for "tundish," but the book's otherwise an excellent and seemingly accurate source of linguistic enlightenment. It deserves nothing less than permanent placement on the shelf next to one's Strunk and White, Fowler, Partridge, Otto Jesperson, and Josefa Heifetz Byrne.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 6 Dec 2013
By C-Dogg - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great resource, thanks Dr. Savage for the recommendation! Everyone should now this in light of the abuse of our language.
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