Is there an etymologist in the house? • 22 August 2007 • The SnowBlog

Is there an etymologist in the house?

Just pondering the word 'always' and its roots. Glancing at an online dictionary the origin is supposedly: Origin: 1200-50; ME alwayes, alleweyes, alles weis, gen. (denoting distribution; cf. once) of all wei; alle- lost its gen. ending and was treated as a compounding element under influence of alle wey. So, "always" comes from the germanic for "all ways". Which to my mind doesn't reflect its meaning. "All ways" should mean something like "Anyhow" But look at the French: toujours. Isn't it weird that if you sort of transliterate it into English you get "all days"? And it's so easy to imagine dropping the 'd' to give "all'ays". Which you could easily spell as "always", or "alwayes". Plus you have a root that seems to mean what it's supposed to mean. If something is true "all days", it's true always. And there are heaps of expressions that were sort of transliterated into English over the years, so it wouldn't be a strange route to take. Granted, I don't have any citations for my alternative etymology - and I doubt it would stand up to analysis - but you've got to admit, it makes a lot more sense than the version in the dictionaries. Which leads us to one inescapable conclusion I would say. Sooner or later, I'm going to have to clear another ten feet of shelf space and buy a nice, old leatherbound copy of the OED.


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