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 29, 2016

To go

To go

Locked in poorly-lit word-dungeons, etymologists studying countless languages have done their best to construct the mother language for Indo-European languages. This hypothetical language is called Proto-Indo European.

One of the many proposed word-parts in this academically constructed language is ei-, meaning to go. Following is a very abbreviated list of some of the modern progeny of that ancient, imagined root, ei-.

exit to go out — appeared in English from ei- in the 1530s through Latin.

Mahayanaa branch of Buddhism — appeared in English from ei- in the 1700s from a Sanskrit word meaning the great vehicle.

itineraryroute of travel — appeared in English from ei- in the 1400s from Greek through Latin.

Janus Roman god of portals & doors — came to English about 1500 through Latin, most likely from ei-.

sedition revolt, uprising — came to English from ei- in the 1300s through Old French.

circuit a going around — appeared in the 1400s from ei- through Old French & Latin.

errant misplaced, originally traveling or roving — came to English from ei- in the the 1300s through Latin & Anglo-French.

suddenunexpected — arrived in English in the 1300s through Anglo-French & Vulgar Latin from ei- through a verb meaning to come or go stealthily.

itineranttraveling — appeared in English from ei- in the 1560s through Late Latin.

yew evergreen tree that symbolizes death & mortality — showed up in Old English from ei- through Proto-Germanic.

obituary - registry of deaths - appeared in English from ei- in the 1700s through a Latin word meaning departure.

Look at all the places we’ve been taken by two little letters meaning to go. Bravo & brava to the etymologists who have put ei- into the mouths of people who couldn’t even have written those letters, since they had no alphabet to begin with. As 2016 prepares to go, imagine all the wild places 2017 might take us.

Big thanks to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster,, the OED, &


  1. It is amazing that all these words are related. And that some of them mean the opposite things at the same time. I've just been researching the yew tree for my poison series, and they do represent death in some cultures and immortality in others. All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans (except the red berries, although the seeds are toxic) but the trees live to be thousands of years old, so they are also a symbol of immortality. Plus the wood is so strong it was used to make bows, which could kill people when used to shoot arrows. A paradoxical plant, both coming and going :-)

    1. Wow. Thanks, Anne -- a shame the word YEW didn't provide the root for YEWNIQUE. Sorry about that.

  2. These are great. I had no idea doors and portals warranted a God. Goodbye to 2016. It was definitely time for it to go. Wild places here we come. Yikes.

  3. Hey Christine - As to doors having gods, there's the tradition of the mezuzah -- not a god, but a reminder to keep one's mind focused Godward. And yes, 2016 was a doozy.