The secret troves of Etymology

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The word Method

One of the most commonly used words in the field of Science is method. Nowadays, we literally can't imagine how we could conduct an experiment or draw a conclusion without following some method. And not only in scholarly discourse but in everyday use, you can often hear someone describing another person or activity as being methodical or as lacking methodology. But what are the origins of this word, and how come it became so popular?

Meaning and usage

  • (most common meaning) A process by which a task is completed; a way of doing something
  • (science) a way of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.
  • (acting, often "the method") A technique for acting based on the ideas articulated by Konstantin Stanislavski and focusing on authentically experiencing the inner life of the character being portrayed.
  • (object-oriented programming) A subroutine or function belonging to a class or object.
  • (slang) Marijuana.
  • (dated) An instruction book systematically arranged.

Sources: Wikitionary, Oxford Languages

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels


The word method (n.) could be traced as early as the 15th century with the meaning "regular, systematic treatment of disease". It derives from Latin methodus "way of teaching or going," which comes from Greek methodos "scientific inquiry, method of inquiry, investigation,". The original meaning of the Greek word is "pursuit, a following after," from meta- "in pursuit or quest of" + hodos "a method, system; a way or manner" (of doing, saying, etc.), which also means "a traveling, journey," literally "a path, track, road". The roots of hodos are of uncertain origin.

Meaning "any way of doing anything, orderly regulation of conduct with a view to the attainment of an end" is from the 1580s; that of "orderliness, regularity" is from the 1610s. Meaning "a system or complete set of rules for attaining an end" is from the 1680s.

Sources: Etymonline

Now, we can easily see how metaphors as "journey/way of knowledge" or "path of truth/science" are actually based on the original meaning of one of the most crucial parts of Science itself – the scientific method. Because traveling is the most beautiful and accurate illustration of what a method is, that's how the meaning of "scientific inquiry, method of inquiry, investigation" was attached to it.

Language could be perplexing but it worth any minute you spent investigating its methods!

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Wednesday, 22 September 2021

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