Tag Archives: etymology


It’s fitting when something new, positive and creative comes along for New Year, so thanks to Ewan McIntosh for the heads up on wordia, whose mission is to redefine the dictionary. This is done by means of short videos, to which collection we are all invited to contribute. The part of the invitation I particularly like is, “think of a word which has a special meaning for you.” As everyone in the teaching game knows, wanting to take part is a huge part of the journey.

I see an opportunity here for pupils and teachers of Music to parallel the excellent work of LTS‘s Learn Listening Online. There seems to be room for inventive and fun ways of illustrating concepts. Moreover, the fact that it is a dictionary should reinforce the connection between music and language. Contributors will need to think about parts of speech and perhaps even etymology. If contributing to this is not the embodiment of CfE, in terms of cross-curricular, creative connectivity, then I don’t know what is.

This illustration of the concept of round might give some idea of what I’m describing. My current favourite, however, is parody – this word was just asking for it.

Happy New Year!


Music and Etymology

Guess who got me into etymology. Perhaps surprisingly, it was Malcolm X, in his autobiography. Rather than looking up definitions, it soon seemed preferable to attempt to divine them through familiarity with the constituent parts of the word – making it nearly impossible to forget.

In a subject like music, the bulk of whose vocabulary consists in old and foreign words, an etymological outlook can offer a key to these baffling terms and associations. With this in mind, I’ve created a new Lesson Support Page entitled Music & Etymology. I must stress here that this is not really my own work but simply a series of links to a fantastic online etymological resource. At the moment the work is at the brain-storming stage and I feel that further developments (and perhaps suggestions from users) will help me decide which of the following options to choose:

  • alphabetical – favouring those looking for a specific term
  • thematic – grouping together related words e.g. interval; triad; chord – favouring browsing

I’ve also yet to decide what to do about words which do not appear on www.etymonline.com. Should I provide my own pointers? Leave them blank – encouraging reader research? Omit them from the list altogether?

Clearly, this will an ongoing project requiring constant updating. However, there’s no rush and it’s important to bear in mind the following proverb of Lao Tzu at the outset of a seemingly huge task:

“ A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”