Keeping it in the Family

Addams Family

Good morning, dear readers! Today, where I live, it’s Family Day, which is basically a fancy name for a government-legislated, mid-winter day off. Given that I’m self-employed, I don’t actually get the benefit of a paid day off, but I do get to spend the day with my family. And that got me thinking about the word family and where it came from.

So I’m taking a break from my family to share my findings with you—members of my online family. Before I get to the meat of this post, I also thought I’d take this opportunity to lay a little guilt on you, because, after all, we’re family.

The Kickstarter for my novel is heading into its last two weeks. I’ve raised about 20% of my goal, which is awesome, but I won’t get any of those contributions if I don’t reach 100%. So I’d like to ask you to consider backing me, if you haven’t already. And if you have, then I’d like to ask you to spread the word on your social networks.

All right, so let’s look at family.

The word family first appears in English in the early 1400s. At that time, it was actually used to refer to the servants of a household. It comes from the Latin word familia, which referred to family servants and domestics collectively. Occasionally, familia was used to refer to the entire household, including relatives and servants, but very rarely was it used to specifically refer to parents and their children. This makes sense when you see that familia came from the Latin word famulus, which meant servant.

In Latin, the word domus was what they used to refer to the related parents and children who lived together in a house.

It wasn’t until the mid-1500s that family started to include parents and children—but in addition to the servants and including boarders. So really, just anyone who lived under the same roof. By the 1660s, family had shifted to its modern meaning, describing parents and their children, whether or not they lived together, or people descended from a common ancestor, which included aunts, uncles, cousins, et cetera.

So the next time someone in your family complains about doing their chores—or accuses you of treating them like a servant—you can tell them that’s what it means to be part of a family.


Image credit: Google images


13 thoughts on “Keeping it in the Family

  1. I wish we had Family Day in the States. All we’ve got today is Presidents’ Day; I still have to go to work or class, but mail doesn’t come and trash gets picked up on Tuesday instead of today. C’est la vie. 🙂

  2. First of all it’s interesting to know what the word family meant long time age and what it means now.
    Secondly what should I do to back you,? Please let me know. Thank you for sharing your post about family.

  3. I love this, but then I enjoy learning something new. It makes complete sense in a way, and I like that the word is encompassing. I’ve definitely found a relatable ‘family’ here.
    Thanks for sharing

    1. Thanks Mel! I love learning new stuff too – and then sharing what I learn with people. And yeah, it’s nice to think of family in such a broad sense, isn’t it? Thank you so much for your pledge! 🙂

  4. This is brilliant! I love etymology and anything that includes a good reason for my son to help around the house. You’re in Ottawa I think, right? I am too. Hope you enjoyed your family day – before everything melts.

    1. Thank you! I figured parents would appreciate the tip. 😉

      Yes, I am in Ottawa. So cool to meet a fellow resident! Let me know if you ever want to meet up for a coffee.

      1. I’d love to meet up! I always think of everyone I’ve met through the blog as being in some far-off place, or at least far from Ottawa. It would be great to sit down and have a chat. I’ll send you an email so you have my name and contact details.

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