Etymology: the story of a word

As somebody who studied Latin and Ancient Greek, I’ve always been interested in etymology – the study of where words come from.

This image caught my attention whilst browsing the other day, showing the foundations of the English word “mother”. Click it to see the full sized version:

Story of a word: mother

It’s a little confusing at first, being that it’s an approximate map of Europe with a big tree on it – but if you start from the right hand side and work your way along the tree’s roots, you can see how the stem worked its way across Europe and how the word for ‘mother’ in each language eventually took shape.

It makes sense that the word ‘mother’ comes from the root of the Sanskrit word ‘to make’ (mata), and it’s interesting to see how the word maintained a lot of its original form in every language.

This fascinating picture was drawn by a Hendrik Willem van Loon (1882-1944), a prolific Dutch-American journalist and historian, and former professor of history at Cornell University.