History, Etymology

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Summary

History (from Greek , historia, meaning "inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the past, specifically how it relates to humans. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians. Events occurring prior to written record are considered prehistory.

Details

Ancient Greek ἱστορία (hístōr) means "inquiry","knowledge from inquiry", or "judge". It was in that sense that Aristotle used the word in his Ferrater-Mora, José. Diccionario de Filosofia. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel, 1994. (Perì Tà Zôa Ηistoríai "Inquiries about Animals"). The ancestor word is attested early on in Homeric Hymns, Heraclitus, the Athenian ephebes' oath, and in Boiotic inscriptions (in a legal sense, either "judge" or "witness", or similar).

The word entered the English language in 1390 with the meaning of "relation of incidents, story". In Middle English, the meaning was "story" in general. The restriction to the meaning "record of past events" arose in the late 15th century. It was still in the Greek sense that Francis Bacon used the term in the late 16th century, when he wrote about "Natural History". For him, historia was "the knowledge of objects determined by space and time", that sort of knowledge provided by memory (while science was provided by reason, and poetry was provided by fantasy).

In an expression of the linguistic synthetic vs. analytic/isolating dichotomy, English like Chinese (史 vs. 诌) now designates separate words for human history and storytelling in general. In modern German, French, and most Germanic and Romance languages, which are solidly synthetic and highly inflected, the same word is still used to mean both "history" and "story".

The adjective historical is attested from 1661, and historic from 1669.Whitney, W. D. The Century dictionary; an encyclopedic lexicon of the English languageCopyright: Attribute—Share Alike

External Links

  • WikipediaBest history sites .netBBC History SiteInternet History Sourcebooks ProjectThe History Channel OnlineHistory Channel UK

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