Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


The word read has come a long way, baby.

The primary definition we know today – “to understand the meaning of written symbols” appears to have been born in Old English, though its roots go much further back. I find it fascinating that read’s original meanings all funneled their way through Old English, but still magically apply to our modern understanding of the word read.

The Old Irish root meant “to deliberate or consider,” and the Sanskrit grandmother of read meant “to succeed or accomplish.” Old Norse, Old Frisian, Dutch & German meant “to counsel, advise, or guess.” One must be particularly appreciative of words with meanings as disparate as advise & guess. Those Old Frisians, Germans & Dutch folk may have been trickier than we might imagine. 

I see all kinds of tweaky present-day applications for these meanings of read’s ancestors. In a blatant attempt to garner a couple extra comments, I’ll ask you, dear followers & guests, to please comment, explaining the connections you see between these ancestral meanings & our present understanding of the word read.

-to deliberate
-to consider
-to succeed
-to accomplish
-to counsel
-to advise
-to guess

My thanks go out to this week’s sources,,, & the OED.


  1. Fascinating stuff this language of ours, Charlie. Well as an "old Irish root" myself, I'm quite taken with the definition of to "deliberate" and "consider", particularly liking the implied discernment one should bring to reading, vs. the swallow-it-whole model.

    Hope you and your family are enjoying a delicious Sunday rest.

    Mary Hershey

  2. Do we hope our readers will: deliberate and consider the story we've written? Did we accomplish to succeed in the message we meant to give, although subtle? If we have, have we not given counsel to the reader in a way? And advised them of a new way of looking at life, by taking a journey they've never traveled before?

    Thank you for another word inspiring post, Charlie.

  3. Hi Jean Ann & Mary,
    Thanks for stopping by, & thanks for muddling about with me in these various meanings. Mary, your mention of being an "old Irish root" pushed me toward taking a look at a couple of arguably Irish etymologies this Thursday for the next post. Thanks!