Tuesday, January 03, 2012

100 sites for fiction writers: #98 - Online Etymology Dictionary

This is an ongoing series looking at websites that can be of help to fiction writers with their craft and career.

Online Etymology Dictionary

If you are reading this, my guess is you are a fiction writer, someone who wants to write fiction, or someone at least with some interest in fiction writing. Let's just say, then, that somehow or other you have interests in writing. Which means you also have an interest in words since, after all, we all write using words, regardless of the language.

An interest in words can take many different forms. Some of us are interested in how words are used. Others have an interest in how words are shaped, how they are formed. Still others have interests in the particular history of words. Me, I'm kind of interested in all of the above, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Because of my interest in words, I've found the Online Etymology Dictionary quite interesting. As a writer, I've found this site quite useful on occasion.

If you don't know what "etymology" is, don't worry. It's a long word, and not necessarily a common one among everyday speakers of the English language. Basically, etymology is the study of the origin or words.

As this series of articles is about writing, you might be asking yourself, "Well, an etymology dictionary sounds interesting, but how can it help me as a writer?"

Let's say you're writing a historical piece, a short story or novel that takes place hundreds of years ago. You want to use a particular word, but it sounds kind of modern and you are not sure whether this particular word was even around during the time period of which you are writing. How do you find out? You turn to the Online Etymology Dictionary, of course.

This website can be a boon for historical writers, or for those who write in fantasy, a genre often based in historical or pseudo-historical worlds and times. Even thriller writers could stand a little study in etymology, especially if they are writing stories taking place during the gangsters' heyday of the 1930s, or any other time period.

The Online Etymology Dictionary is also easy to use. Go to the site and you'll see a search window right in the middle of the screen. Type in your word, hit "OK," and suddenly you've got an extensive list concerning the history and usage or your particular word. There are even listed historical records of when a word was first used.

If you're like me, you can spend hours upon hours at such a site. It can be fun and helpful, especially to writers.

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