Saturday, September 3, 2011

Etymology of Freedom

The etymology of powerful terms like ‘free’ and ‘freedom’ reveal a lot about how attitudes about the implications of freedom have changed over the centuries. If you take a look at the etymological trail leading to the origin of freedom, you’ll eventually find that the root is the PIE base *pri- (*preyh2- or *preh2y if you want to get particular. Interestingly, the meaning of *pri is ‘love,’ which was incorporated into a variety of other terms in the years to come with meanings like ‘beloved,’ ‘help,’ ‘peace’ and ‘affection.’ Gradually, words like ‘free’ and ‘freedom’ came into its modern sense of not being bound by law, society, circumstances, etc, possibly due to the social divide between free and beloved friends and family members as opposed to slaves and servants.

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