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 27, 2012



When trying to reach a goal, whether New Year’s resolution or otherwise, what works best for you? Coercing or compelling yourself? Promising, encouraging or goading yourself? Or maybe wishing? Do any of these words’ etymologies throw light on who you are or how you reach your goals?

The word wish came from the Old English word wyscan, meaning to strive after, wish, desire, or be satisfied.

To coerce is to control or restrain, & appeared in English in the1400s from the French word cohercer. It most likely came from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning to hold, contain or guard.

Compel comes from the Old French word compeller, which was derived from a Latin word meaning to drive together, to force.

The noun promise showed up in the 1400s, meaning declaration made about the future, about some act to be done or not done. The verb showed up within a century, meaning to send forth or foretell.

Encourage came to English in the 1400s from the French word encoragier, meaning to make strong or to hearten – it’s related to the word courage.

The verb goad came from the Old English noun gad, meaning point, spearhead or arrowhead,

When it comes to resolutions, I find it fascinating that since the 1400s the first meaning of the word resolution has been a breaking into parts. Doesn’t our success in reaching some big goal almost always involve exactly that? No significant success is simple. By the 1540s, resolution’s adjectival sibling resolute picked up the meaning holding firmly.

What verb above helps you hold firmly to your goals or resolutions?  Striving? Containment? Force? Foretelling? Poking yourself with a spearhead? Are there other verbs I left out? Please let me know in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources The OED & Etymonline.


  1. GAD!, I love Proto-Indo-European food! It's so, so jazz-matazzy.

  2. Dearest Mr. Figler,
    This does not surprise me. Here's hoping that int his new year you won't find yourself on the wrong end of a gad.

  3. I like the idea of a promise as a foretelling. So...I promise to pursue publication in 2013 and therefor foretell success. Yea! Just that simple right?

  4. Hi Christine,
    Exactly that simple! I foretell that your promise will prove fruitful.