Friday, April 8, 2011

"Body" Etymology

Put the word "body" in the google search bar, and 1,740,000,000 hits will be returned! However, when researching the history of the actual word itself, there isn't too much that is readily available. This is what I have been able to turn up just simply searching online.

According to, a body is: “The physical structure and material substance of an animal or plant, living or dead.”

Body: Word History
Date of Origin Old English [OE]
"For a word so central to people's perception of themselves, body is remarkably isolated linguistically, Old High German had potah 'body,' traces of which survived dialectically into modern times, but otherwise it is without known relatives in any other Indo-European language. Attempts have been made, not altogether convincingly, to link it with words for 'container' or 'barrel,' such as the medieval Latin term butica. The use of body to mean 'person in general,' as in somebody or nobody, became common in the 14th century."

Various other online sources outline a similar development of the emergence and use of the word "body," supporting the likelihood that it originally arose in the Germanic languages, with possible Latin influence. It's evolution from then on took many different forms, with its definition moving from a "trunk or chest" to the "main part" of something (mostly in reference to vehicles in the 1920's), to referring to an actual corpse, to the term "body image" being coined in 1935. 

I think that one of the most interesting things I read was that the term "body" almost immediately became contrasted with the concept of "soul". I have always imagined my soul to be what would remain once I no longer have a body to contain it. . So I guess that my interpretation assumes that body and soul are one rather than binary opposites. . Hmm.


  1. Hello, can you delete the first comment by myself and this comment? I'd really appreciate it. Thank you

  2. Vsauce for me as well

    And those comments are not deleted from 2 years ago, thats funny.

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