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Etymology is one of those things that fascinates me and I don’t know nearly enough about.
It’s all about the history of words and how they develop and where they come from. I took a few classes on it in college, and I’ve read books about it since then too. I just love learning how a word changed over time. Like geek. Did you know that was originally a term for a circus performer who bit the heads of chickens? Such a different meaning nowadays, isn’t it?
There are two big ways that I use etymology in my writing.
One, I use it to create new words and terminologies. Take zooanthrope as a very basic example. Instead of using the common lycanthrope to reference a wereanimal or shapshifter, I wanted something more generic. Since the roots words of lycanthrope are wolf and man, I decided to use zooanthrope which comes from the roots animal and man instead so it could be a more broadly used term. I also use the principles of etymology to create the terms I use for other paranormal things. I created an old Gaelic inspired term for vampires based on the words for blood and drinker. I searched for Greek terms to combine and alter to create the terminology for the zooanthropes in my series too.
Another, is naming characters. I love to give my characters names that somehow harken back to a character trait of some kind or at the very least their personal heritage. For instance a German name for someone with German-born parents or a name that was popular in the year of their birth for a character that should be very generically American. Sometimes it’s more subtle. I have one character whose name means blue in another language, but it’s a word almost exclusively used in poetry. It makes sense for this character because her father picked it out, and he’s a well-known scholar who would know such a word and like it enough to name his daughter that. (Virtual cookies for anyone who knows what character I’m talking about!)
I use etymology and other languages, but how do you make up the terminology you need while you world build? And how do you pick the names for your characters?