Where do words come from? Where are they going?
In some ways both these questions are difficult to answer. Obviously, we can know the short-term answers to both questions.
It’s apparent, for example, that the modern word radio derives from radiate and is a reference to electromagnetic waveforms radiating outwards from a transmitter. But if we dig deeper into the human past, we’ve no idea when early humans first assigned meaning to their mouth-noises and how that developed into what we call ‘words’, and thus we’ve little idea about the earliest forms or meanings of the words we use today.
Equally it’s hard to imagine where words, expressions, and their meanings might go in the future, although it’s possible to see trends over time. We’ve seen in our own lifetime such words as ‘radical’ change their meaning — only 50 years ago it used to mean ‘fundamental’ but it was increasingly used in the expression ‘radical change’ and has ended up meaning something like ‘revolutionary’.
The word ‘wellspring’ itself has broadened its meaning over time … obviously it was originally an expression for the source of water, but in modern English it’s used as a generic term for the source of anything plentiful.
This section delivers some of the interesting histories of words and expressions that we do know. Click Topics to learn more.