World - Etymology and Usage

Etymology and Usage

The English word world comes from the Old English weorold (-uld), weorld, worold (-uld, -eld), a compound of wer "man" and eld "age," which thus means roughly "Age of Man." The Old English is a reflex of the Common Germanic *wira-alđiz, also reflected in Old Saxon werold, Old High German weralt, Old Frisian warld and Old Norse verǫld (whence the Icelandic veröld).

The corresponding word in Latin is mundus, literally "clean, elegant", itself a loan translation of Greek cosmos "orderly arrangement." While the Germanic word thus reflects a mythological notion of a "domain of Man" (compare Midgard), presumably as opposed to the divine sphere on the one hand and the chthonic sphere of the underworld on the other, the Greco-Latin term expresses a notion of creation as an act of establishing order out of chaos.

'World' distinguishes the entire planet or population from any particular country or region: world affairs pertain not just to one place but to the whole world, and world history is a field of history that examines events from a global (rather than a national or a regional) perspective. Earth, on the other hand, refers to the planet as a physical entity, and distinguishes it from other planets and physical objects.

'World' can also be used attributively, to mean 'global', 'relating to the whole world', forming usages such as world community or world canonical texts.

By extension, a 'world' may refer to any planet or heavenly body, especially when it is thought of as inhabited, especially in the context of science fiction or futurology.

'World', in original sense, when qualified, can also refer to a particular domain of human experience.

  • The world of work describes paid work and the pursuit of career, in all its social aspects, to distinguish it from home life and academic study.
  • The fashion world describes the environment of the designers, fashion houses and consumers that make up the fashion industry.
  • historically, the New World vs. the Old World, referring to the parts of the world colonized in the wake of the age of discovery. Now mostly used in zoology and botany, as New World monkey.

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Famous quotes containing the words usage and/or etymology:

    ...Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, “It depends.” And what it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
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    The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.
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