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The secret troves of etymology

Credit: Gettyimages

Etymology of the word concert

There are many words that we daily use, words for which meaning we are sure of, and never ask where they come from. One of them is the word concert. I have no doubts that you all know that word and most probably you have used it recently. Well, of course, a concert means a public group (or solo) musical performance, a musical show. But what are the roots of that rather common word, where does it come from originally? Well, it turns out that the noun concert has a curious story.


concert (n.)

The word derives from the Latin concentare – "to contend with, contest, dispute, debate, to fight/strive against" (con, cum – "with" + centare – "to contend, strive"). So far, it sounds more than strange. How come that meaning turned into the contemporary sense of the word? It is difficult to explain but it seems that the shift was made from "to strive against" to "to strive alongside", or perhaps it is via the notion of "confer, arrange by conference, debate for the sake of agreement." However, in the 1660s English language the word already had the meaning "agreement of two or more in design or plan; accord, harmony," which came from French concert, and Italian concerto - "concert, harmony". A bit later, in the 1680s, we could already find the word with the sense of "public musical performance". The general sense of "any harmonious agreement or orderly union" is from 1796. Concert-master "first violinist of an orchestra" is from 1815, translating German Konzertmeister.

The world of words has the most peculiar natural laws and evolution. It could always surprise you with some unexpected meaning of something that you're sure you know. So, never stop questioning the words you're using. It is worthwhile, it could open a whole new universe of understanding the fascinating verbal interplay between consciousness and objects.

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