A bit of etymology

Here at Melody Valerie Couture, it’s usually all about fabric! But, like everyone else, we spend a fair bit of time wrestling with words – writing ads, blog posts, and corresponding with customers all require sculpting English to communicate. (Never mind that for fun we sometimes look through the dictionary for archaic words with interesting meanings!)

Imagine my surprise, then, when one of my friends mentioned that the words text and textile come from the same root! Language and fabric – or at least, the words to describe them – have the same linguistic heritage, and that was enough excuse for me to hunt up a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary and check for myself.

Texere is the Latin word for weaving. How we get textile – “a woven fabric…any kind of cloth” – from ‘to weave’ makes sense, at least on a semantic level, but where does the ‘text’ – “the wording of anything written or printed…the very words, phrases, and sentences as written” – come from?

The extended etymology of text hints at the answer, which apparently began in Latin itself. Textus meant the style or tissue of a literary work; literally, the way the words were woven together into a web or texture. Suddenly, poetry and fabric seemed to have a lot in common!

So, the next time you get a text message, read the news online, or pick up your favorite novel, think about textiles, and enjoy the way that words are woven together to shape the fabric of your existence!



All definitions and roots are from the Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, prepared by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Published 1989, Clarendon Press, Oxford.


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