The Secret Troves of Etymology
The word Energy
Energy is one of those words that most of us use on a daily basis. It has both everyday and scholarly meanings. We all know what does it mean and yet that could really mislead us whenever we are trying to examine the full range of its connotations and its origins. Let's set out on a trip towards the roots of one of the most common words today.
Uses of the word Energy
In everyday conversation, it usually refers to the capacity of something or someone to do given work or execute tasks, something similar to power. It is often used as the impetus or stimulus behind all activity and motion. In physics, however, the term has a more specific meaning. It is the quantity that denotes the ability to do work and is measured in a unit dimensioned in mass × distance²/time² (ML²/T²) or the equivalent.
Another specific usage of energy could be found in Eastern Orthodox theology. It refers to the external actions and influences resulting from an entity's internal nature (ousia) and by which it is made manifest, as opposed to that internal nature itself; the aspect of an entity that can affect the wider world and be apprehended by other beings. Energy also has esoteric connotations in some New Age teachings and religions where it is believed that energy emanates from a person, place, or thing and which is (or can be) preserved and transferred in human interactions; shared mood or group habit; a vibe, a feeling, an impression.
The word is also a great deal common among children and teenagers. In a lot of fantasy books, role-playing, board, and computer games, energy is a measure of how many actions a player or unit can perform. It is often called mana or magic points.
The word Energy had a long journey before its modern usage in English. It originates in the Ancient Greek ἐνεργός (energós, "active"), from ἐν (en, "in", "at") + ἔργον (érgon, "work"), which was later transformed in ἐνέργεια (enérgeia, "activity"). It came into Latin as energia, then into Middle French énergie, which became the ground for the English word. In the light of its etymological roots, energy dismantle features, which were hidden before that. The meaning is not only of - the capacity to do work or the power of someone but self-accumulating activeness. It is the state of being active. It is activeness, which provokes more activeness more like a dynamo, instead of a limited container filled with force. In that regard, the more active you are, the more energy you get.
The beauty of etymology comes exactly here – in the expansion of meaning. A word is like a web of functions and nuances, which could elucidate unexpected aspects of Nature. It is the living consciousness of humankind where one could openly communicate with and learn from the ancients. The more connotations you could sense in a term the richer your perception of both world's phenomena and cultural dynamics.
The Scientific History of the Word "Energy"
The term enérgeia was first developed by Aristotle (384 BC − 322 BC). It has no direct translation to English, although it is frequently described as "being at work".
The English term "energy" acquired its modern definition (meaning the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object to perform work or heat the object) in the 19th century. However, the ideas behind the concept began forming at the end of the 17th century, when the word was first used in English to refer to "power".
By 1686, the famous German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646 − 1716), had developed concepts that correspond more or less to our modern understanding of kinetic and potential mechanical energy. However, he didn't use the term "energy".
In 1800, the scientist that first introduced the word energy to the field of physics was Thomas Young (1773 − 1829). However, the word did not gain popularity at the time.
Between 1842 and 1847, Julius Robert von Mayer (1814 − 1878), James Prescott Joule (1818 − 1889), and Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz (1821 − 1894) discovered and formulated the basics of what we refer to today as the law of conservation of energy, which goes like that - Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed from one form to another. However, they used the terms "living force", "tensional force", or "fall-force" instead of the word "energy".
A few years later, William Thomson - Lord Kelvin (1824 − 1907) and William J. M. Rankine (1820 − 1872) started to use the word "energy" to denote any kind of "force" across all branches of science.
Finally, in 1905, Albert Einstein (1879 − 1955) formulated the general equivalence of energy and mass with his theory of relativity. From that point, the concept of energy was generalized into the form used today.