Where Words Began
As I was sitting, thinking of what to write about this Wednesday, I kept repeating to myself think of a word, think of a word, think of a word! –and then it hit me. Where did the word “word” come from?
Wonder no more!
It originated sometime before the year 900AD and takes it roots from the Dutch Woord and German Wort. Those terms can be traced back through Indo-European roots to the Latin word Verbum. (I’m still not quite sure how you get Wort from Verbum, but that’s what the experts tell us, so it must be true).
A word is said to be the smallest unit of language that can still have meaning when used on its own. Before humanity began writing with words, they wrote with pictures–called logographic writing (think of hieroglyphs). Today, languages such as Chinese and Japanese still have many logographic characters.
Prehistory represents the time before a civilization has developed a system of writing; during development, it is called proto-history; and only after a full system of written language is in place do we call it history. It is also interesting to note that there is a distinct difference between "writing" and "literature". In some societies, literature developed as many as 600 years after the first words were written down.
Today, Merriam Webster officially recognizes 171,476 current words and 47,156 obsolete words in the English Language alone.