Names and meanings

8/14/18 1:28:44 PM

It is interesting to see how words can change meaning over cultures, and over time.

Take a word like Liver. The organ that exists in humans and other vertebrates. It represent a unit of thought (a think) that is common today to distinct that particular organ from the rest of the universe based on its functions, shape, etc.

The word Liver is of German / Anglo-Saxon origins. It comes from the same family of Life, to Live, etc. - as it was believed that the liver is the source of blood in the body, hence the source of life.

In Hebrew (and Arabic who borrowed the Hebrew word), the word for Liver literally means “Heavy”, as it was considered the most heavy of internal organs. In Latin languages they call it by other names (higato, foie, fegato, etc.). They all stem from the latin word Ficatum, which means “stuffed with figs”. Why? Because in ancient times the Romans made a dish that consists of liver and figs.

 

Culture:
Anglo-Saxon
Latin
Semitic
Meaning:
Source of life
Stuffed with figs
Heavy

 

This last example is quite remarkable. An organ is called after a dish that was being made with it.  What was it called before the dish name? It could be that before that it had a different name, say something that meant “The Organ with which to consult the spirits”, or “The future telling organ” as in ancient times consulting the liver of dead animals was one of the popular methods to predict the future (2nd only to Astrology). That last part is just a speculation. It could very much be that before that it had the same meaning as the Anglo-Saxon word (i.e. something along the lines of Life, Life-Source, etc.). But if we entertain ourselves a bit with these possibilities, the movement in time is interesting:

 

Year
~500 BC
~900 AD
~2000 AD
Latin word (Use Spanish
Word for now)
?? (it’s a bit strange talking
about the Spanish word at
this time, as it predates
the Spanish language)

Higato
Higato
Meaning
Future Telling Organ /
Source of Life
That which is
delicious with figs
Organ in
vertebrates

 

It could be that in even more ancient times, the existence of this organ was not known. It was not clear that there is this similar unit or structure in humans and vertebrates. And so no name for it existed.

The words and meaning changed, as the function and understanding, the concept of the think, changed.