Oxford English Dictionary Assignment
I chose to use the words refer, feel, level and find. These words have a very long history. They have diverse origins and different spelling variations. While some have undergone significant changes in meanings over the years, some have only had slight variations. The OED provided me with valuable insight on word changes. When words are used across different cultures and countries, they are subjected to a lot of modifications and alterations to suit the change of settings. These words have a great historical background, throughout the years they have undergone meaning and spelling changes.
I chose the above words because I use them in my daily conversations. I was motivated by the need to explore the origins of these words and their evolution over time. I was also attracted by the number of etymologies that showed up in the dictionary when I ran a search for the four words. These words entered the English language ages ago. The dates of their first citations show exactly at what time they were first adopted into the English language. Refer for example, was first cited between the years 1300 and 1399. During that time it meant to “entrust oneself to an authority or authoritative judgment; to appeal to for support and assistance” (OED). Feel on the other hand was first cited a century earlier than refer between 1200 and 1299. It was used to refer to “a sounding of a person’s intentions, etc.; the perceiving (something) by sensation” (OED). Level was also fist cited during the same period as refer, between 1300and 1399. At the time of its fist citation, it was used to refer to “an instrument which indicates a line parallel to the place of the horizon…” (OED). Find, unlike the other three words was used much earlier. It was first cited in the years before 999 and it meant, “To come across, fall in with, meet with, light upon” (OED).
These words have undergone many meaning changes over the years. For example the traditional English use of the word find meant, “An act or instance of finding; in hunting language…” (OED). It has however since been used to refer to many different actions. Its euphemistic meaning for example, refers to the act of coming across or meeting with something. This represents a slightly broad and general meaning when compared to the traditional English usage. The use of feel has also changed over the years; different applications of the word have emerged while it means to handle an object it also refers to a person’s perceptions. This latter meaning came into use many years after the former was cited (1200-1299). Another interesting observation about the use of these words is about the compounds they form. Level for example has several compounds, which include base level, blind level, box-level and contact level. The compounding however does not significantly affect the initial meaning of the word it rather enhances it. For example, base level means the lowest horizontal level, which actually corresponds with the meaning of the word as used in earlier times.
The words have significantly evolved since the time they were first adopted into the English language. Interestingly however, the variations of meanings are very slight and insignificant. This slight change in meaning however does not hold for all the words in the dictionary, some undergo a complete change of meaning and become completely different from the original word.
Oxford English Dictionary (OED). Oxford University Press. 2013. Web. 11 Feb 2013.