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Chambers Dictionary of Etymology [Hardcover]

3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 15 1999 0550142304 978-0550142306
How are the words 'door' German 'Tzr' and Sanskrit 'dvar' related? When did the word Blarney first appear in print? What's the linguistic history of the word 'history'? The Chambers Etymological Dictionary holds all the answers for any person curious about the origins of the words they use, and how these words have changed over time. This fascinating dictionary explores the development of meaning, spelling, and pronunciation of over 25,000 English words. Over 30,000 detailed entries trace words back to their Proto-Germanic or Indo-European roots, and include words borrowed from other languages, as well as the sources and dates of their first recorded use. For many years academics, wordsmiths, crossword lovers, and language enthusiasts of all stripes have turned to this celebrated volume as their reference of choice in lexical matters. First published as the Barnhart Etymological Dictionary, the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology offers a unique combination of approachability and authoritativeness in an accessible single-volume format, making it an essential etymological resource for the expert, and a fascinating reference for the general reader. Sample entry from the Chambers Etymological Dictionary: blarney n. flattering, coaxing talk. 1766, Lady Blarny (for Blarney), a smooth-talking flatterer in Goldsmith's the Vicar of Wakefield, her name being a literary contrivance in allusion to Blarney Stone, a stone in a castle near Cork, Ireland. Anyone kissing the stone is supposed to become skillful in flattering and coaxing. The word is used in its general sense in a letter of Sir Walter Scott (1796).

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'The best of scholarship ... the most user-friendly of etymological dictionaries' University of Georgia

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but not quite as detailed as Oxford version Sept. 4 2002
I had the chance to compare the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology with the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology, and I have to say that although both books are way ahead of the competition, for me, the Oxford seemed to go into greater depth.
Admittedly, I did not have the time to compare a lot of entries, but the few words I did look up showed a pattern that was hard to dismiss. In all of the cases that I saw, the Oxford dictionary included much more of the history of the word and often went back to the Latin root as well as proposing possible alternate developments of the word. The Chambers dictionary, on the other hand, tended to trace a more linear path and often only went as far back as the Old English or Old French root.
While the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology is a very clear and concise work, I feel the Oxford Dictionary of Etymology has a slight advantage in precision and depth. I must add that although the Oxford beats out the Chambers dictionary in regard to etymology, Chambers has the advantage when it comes to quotations. I find that the Chambers Dictionary of Quotations is better than Oxford's equivalent work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful reference and great value! July 31 2002
By A Customer
This volume is a "must-have" for readers, scholars, and absolutely any person interested in words and their origins/history. The book is rather heavy and thick but is otherwise extremely user-friendly and a great "browser" as well as an essential companion to any ordinary dictionary.
I should note that this edition, although a British re-publication of its famous US version, retains American spelling and keeps its focus on American sources while utilizing the best of all English references, regardless of country of origin.
Regarding physical quality, the book has a signature-sewn binding, meaning that it is not merely held together by glue but that its pages are actually sewn with real thread... quite a treat in today's disposable society. Thus, with reasonable care, this tome should last a lifetime and beyond!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Chambers reads well, but no cigar Nov. 15 2002
I bought the Chambers Dictionary of Etymology, largely based on reviews posted here. While I love the 'prose' style of word origin discussions, there has scarcely been a time the book has proved useful. The fact is, Eric Partridge's "Origins" : a Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English" surpasses Chambers on a daily basis for my purposes. It goes deeper, gives you a wealth of threads for further investigation and contains some spicy asides regarding other distionaries. That one needs to familiarize oneself with abbreviations is simply no objection.
My view is : by-pass Chambers and get a real etymological dictionary. You will never regret it. I have a pristine copy of Chambers for sale should you incline to the contrary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not happy March 21 2011
By Jack
Having purchased this book a couple of weeks ago I have now looked through it and read many of the entries.

I am not a linguist or a scholar in this field but I was both pleased and disappointed in what I found.

On the positive side I liked reading the entries. They are generally well written in a nice, clean, open style without resorting to obscure, scholarly terms.

On the negative side, despite the obvious depth of knowledge of the writer(s), I sometimes felt a lack of references to Latin and Greek roots which I am used to seeing in a majority of words in any regular etymological dictionary such as the OED or any issues of Chambers. (But I certainly didn't do a sytematic survey to prove or disprove this point.)

But what really upset me was that despite its obviously scholarly approach the coverage is of a Bowdlerised version of the language. I hate this. It isn't like I wish to dwell on these words, such as f*u*c*k and c*u*n*t and q*u*i*m and so on but they are an essential component of the language; they are used every day in word and print; they have a rich heritage worthy of exploration; their absence makes me feel ripped off; it makes me suspicious that other good and useful everyday words have been excluded and it is simply intellectual dishonesty for someone producing an academic work to exclude them. Rude they may be, but real and everyday and worthy of inclusion they certainly are.
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The Chamber's Dictionary of Etymology is the best edition to be found. With the origins and development of over 25,000 English words it remains the most complete and formidable reference tool in its class. This single-volume dictionary contains a short history of the English language; and above and beyond all other editions it handles how the spelling, pronunciation, and meanings of words have changed throughout time. This edition will be exceptionaly rewarding for English students, teachers, and general readers alike.
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