Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Shared Etymology of 'Meaning' and 'Mind'

The Munih of the Shakyas

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary , the words mean (in the sense of assigning meaning) and mind share a common origin - 'Old English mænan from West Germanic: related to MIND' [1]

If we dig a little deeper, we find that both mean and mind go back to a common Proto Indo European root: *men

From the Online Etymological Dictionary

mean (v.)
O.E. mænan "to mean, tell, say, complain," from W.Gmc. *mainijanan (cf. O.Fris. mena, Du. menen, Ger. meinen to think, suppose, be of the opinion"), from PIE *meino- "opinion, intent" (cf. O.C.S. meniti "to think, have an opinion," O.Ir. mian "wish, desire," Welsh mwyn "enjoyment"), probably from base *men- "think."

mind (n.)
O.E. gemynd "memory, thinking, intention," P.Gmc. *ga-menthijan (cf. Goth. muns "thought," munan "to think;" O.N. minni "mind;" Ger. minne, originally "memory, loving memory"), from PIE base *men- "think, remember, have one's mind aroused" cf. Skt. matih "thought," munih "sage, seer..."

[An asterisk is used to mark reconstructed Proto Indo European words, such as *wódr 'water', *ḱwṓn 'dog' (English hound), or *tréyes 'three'.]

Development of modern languages
from Proto Indo European
(Click to enlarge)

Wisdom of the ancients

The words mind, meaning and Shakyamuni go back to the same Proto Indo European root.

Sanskrit manas is probably also derived from the same source. So, on the basis of etymology, the word mind could be defined as that which assigns meaning.Oddly enough, although English, Sanskrit and Spanish (mente) have words for mind derived from the root *men, some other Indo-European languages appear to have lost the connection. Translation of mind into French (esprit) or German (Geist) will give words derived from 'spirit' or 'ghost'.

[1] Etymology of mean (1) in Oxford Concise English Dictionary, Ninth Edition p 844, publ Clarendon Press Oxford 1995, ISBN 0-19-861319-9


Update  20-Feb-2012
From   Is That All There Is? What Does Anything Mean? by Yujhan Claros

'Meaning entered the English language sometime close to 700 years ago. The word is a derivative from the Old English verb mænan, which traces its origin to the Proto-Indo-European root *men-, which the Online Etymology Dictionary defines as "think, remember, have one's mind aroused." The same Proto-Indo-European root is responsible for Sanskrit manas, Latin mens, and English mind, all of which mean the same thing. If we seek to define meaning in its purest sense then, we must think of its simplest root, which directs us to mind and its oldest sense (and meaning) memory.

When I look up the the noun meaning in my English-to-Latin dictionaries, I find the following English cognates: sentence, intellect, interpretation, signification, and accept. One might see how meaning could be extracted from these words, however, it is not the primary sense of any of them...'

- Sean Robsville

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شات سعودي كام ,شات سعودي كول said...


سعودي كام said...

European languages appear to have lost the connection. Translation of mind into

سعودي كول said...

European languages appear to have lost the connection. Translation of mind into