My dear readers, what a difficult month it has been. One of my dogs died unexpectedly, from something called spontaneous pneumothorax, which, in a nutshell, means he had holes in his lungs that formed spontaneously and grew progressively worse over time.
I’m not trying to bring you down; I just wanted you to understand why I chose to write today’s post.
After struggling to come up with a more light-hearted topic, I decided to embrace the dark side and write about the etymological origins of death, grief, and mourning. So, without further ado…
Death — the word, not the dude with the scythe — came to us from the Old English word, deað, which referred to death, dying, or cause of death. When plural, it also referred to ghosts. Deað, in turn, came from the Proto-Germanic dauthuz, which was formed by combining the stem dheu-, meaning to die, with the suffix –thuz, meaning an act, process, or condition.
The word grief first appeared in English in the early 1200s, when it was used to refer to hardship, suffering, and pain. It came from the Old French word of the same spelling, which referred to a wrong, an injustice, or a misfortune — and which, in turn, came from the Old French word, grever, meaning to afflict, burden, or oppress. Grever came from the Latin gravare, which meant to make heavy or cause grief, and which came from another Latin word, gravis, which meant weighty. Grief’s more modern meaning, to describe mental pain and sorrow, appeared around 1300.
Like death, the word mourn also came to us from Old English, from the word murnan, which meant to bemoan, to long after, or to be anxious about. Murnan came from a Proto-Germanic word of the same spelling, which meant to remember sorrowfully, and which likely came from the Proto-Indo-European root, (s)mer-, meaning to remember.
I don’t know about you, but I thought it was interesting that mourn seems to be the oldest of the three words. Where I live, grieve is more commonly used than mourn. What about where you live? Do you grieve or mourn? Or do you do both?