Chambers Dictionary of Etymology Hardcover – 6 Aug 1999
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'The best of scholarship ... the most user-friendly of etymological dictionaries' (University of Georgia)
The origins and development of over 30,000 English wordsSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
QUOTE A lot of the words don't go back to the real origin. "Street' for example is said to be derived from the Latin "Strata" or "paved road", when the Latin actually comes from the Semitic, "Serat" for "straight road".UNQUOTE
Semitic "Serat" (also Arabic "Sirat") comes from Latin (via Greek as an intermediary) not the other way around as asserted by the reviewer. There is simply no doubt about this. As pointed out in the Chambers Dictionary, "Strata" is the past participle of the Latin verb STERNERE ("to lay down", "to spread out") which shares a common INDO-EUROPEAN origin with the Germanic root which is the basis of English STREW. I have not seen ANY etymological dictionary that has a different explanation, and I have consulted authoritative ones in English, French, Spanish, Italian and German. In English, this origin is confirmed by, among others, (i) the Oxford English Dictionary, (ii) the American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.
A second comment of the same reviewer was
QUOTE The dictionary also lists many languages that use a specific word without telling us about the source of the word, which is what etymology is about.UNQUOTE
In fact, my impression is that the Chambers Dictionary gives far more information than other comparable etymological dictionaries in terms of the ultimate roots of words. Taking a word at random, for "make", Old English macian is traced back through Old Saxon makon to Proto-Germanic *makojanan from the Indo-European root *mag-.Read more ›
I compared this with the OED in-store and found that the clarity of entries - definition, history - in the Chambers by far exceeded that of its competitor - especially its minimal use of abbreviations (of which the OED was laden). Not only does the perspicuity of its entries place it above the OED, the Chambers' clear typeset, complimented by its leaf quality, elevated it even further over that of its ugly other, whose use of some obscenely obscure Romanesque font really didn't flatter its crude sheets of recycled Financial Times.
I would strongly advise this for those who are untrained in linguistics and/or philology. The OED retails at twice the price of Chambers, and from my perspective is 'clearly' inferior. This reference book will - for a long time to come - have its place by my bedside.
OED = Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology
My only criticism of the book is that it has adopted American spellings of words in certain cases, e.g. smolder, rather than smoulder.
But it is competatively priced against the other etymology dictionaries. So, you pays your money and you takes your choice.
In way of entertainment it beats any TV programme currently running!
* Solipsism, for instance, or the rarer bedizen, apparently cognate with distaff. It would be nice to have learned how Americans pronounced it. If they ever did. (Traditionally it rhymes with eyes-on.)
Postscript [after the 2014 referendum]
The other book you need by your elbow is Chambers Dictionary itself, for which no praise is too high, though again I'm comfortable with an older edition, the 1993, the one when they dropped the 'Twentieth Century' tag. Why doesn't the Chambers brothers' mini-empire receive a fraction of the interest lavished on Murray and his Oxford cohort? Could it possibly be because they're (fie! the very idea!) Scottish? (Hands off our tongue, man!) Of course Murray's a Scot too, but one of ours. Not that I'm advocating independence, now - at least not on economic grounds. But is the economy the only thing that counts? Bottom line, do you side with the coloniser or the colonised?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a birthday present. Recipient was very pleased with itPublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
This is a dream book for wordsmiths who like to know where words come from and how they have reached comtemporary usage. Ordinary dictionaries pale in comparison. Read morePublished on 27 Aug. 2013 by Susie Minto
Bought as Xmas present for my daughter as she is very interested in the origin of words and their use. She is very pleased and I know it will be well thumbed.Published on 9 Jan. 2013 by ginger 141
Words..What are they ? Sounds formed from the mouth to give understanding.
What are they though ?From whence do they come ? Read more
Great value, and fascinating to delve into e.g. without it I'd never have known that the words adder, apron, umpire and nickname all share an unusual linguistic feature!Published on 12 May 2011 by Amazon Customer
It's quite good... though I prefer my old 1964 edition, because of extras in the back section. e.g. Greek mythology, and Roman numeracy etc. Read morePublished on 12 Mar. 2011 by ursaf