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, January 10, 2013

The Giver & Son

The Giver & Son

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is a fantastic teen/middle grade read, & has been since it showed up in 1994. Just this year, the final book in The Giver Quartet appeared, titled Son. This fourth book offers an intriguing look into the wonders & challenges of love.

For this week’s post, we’ll take a look at the etymologies of the words Lowry used for her titles in The Giver Quartet books: The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, & Son.

The word give came to Old English as giefan, to give, bestow, allot, grant, commit, devote or entrust. It has close relatives in Old Frisian, Dutch, German & Gothic, & all those find their roots in the Proto-Indo-European word ghabh-, to take hold, have, or give. That same root spawned the word habit.

The word gathering entered English in the 1100s, as gaderung & meant meeting. It came from the Old English verb, gaedrian, to unite, agree, gather, collect, or store up. It’s related to German, Dutch, Old Frisian & Gothic words with these meanings: unite, husband, spouse, fellow & join.

Messenger came to English as messager from Old French about 1200, meaning envoy, ambassador or messenger. Linguists call the n that showed up two centuries later parasitic, as it showed up “for no apparent reason except that people liked to say it that way.” Interestingly, the noun message was derived from the verb messager, appearing in the 1300s, meaning communication transferred via a messenger. Messenger is related through its French grandmother & Latin great grandmother to transmit, mission, emissary, & submit.

Had Lowry’s fourth book, Son, been published in Old English, it would have been titled Sunu, meaning – what a surprise – son. Other Germanic language brothers of son include sonr, zoon, sone, sunuz, sohn & sunus. All of these words herald from the Sanskrit verb su, to give birth.

Fellow writers, what can you pull out of these etymologies that you would hope for your own work? Fellow readers, what do you find in these etymologies that you look for in your Next Great Read? Please let us know in the comments section.

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


  1. I'm so glad I found this blog through the Mother Reader comment challenge. I'm a big fan of Lois Lowry and I always like learning something new. Thanks!

  2. I wonder if the word ghabh is also the root of our word "grab"? It would mean to give and to grab have the same origin. Lowry's books are certainly standing the test of time. I think the idea of a "giver" has universal appeal.

  3. Great question, Anne,
    It turns out "grab" comes from the Sanskrit word "grbhnati," meaning to reach.
    Sylvia, thanks for popping by. I'm also enjoying the comment challenge, only I learned of it through Lee Wind.
    Mazel tov!