When I was writing Day 10's post about confused word pairs, I invited readers to share their most-hated favorites in the comments so we could commiserate.
As soon as I typed that word commiserate, I thought, hey, that's a combination of the prefix co-, meaning "with or alongside of", and the Latin miseria, meaning "wretchedness." It means "to be wretched or miserable with." I was so confident of this little factoid, I wrote it in the post.
But then my little editor brain chimed in and said, you better check that first. So I researched, and here's the correction.
Did you know there is an Online Etymology Dictionary? Indeed there is, and it's one of my favorite tools. I love finding out where words come from. Go check it out and start typing in random words. You'll be hooked.
So I went to my handy-dandy OED and typed in commiserate, and do you know what I found out?
It comes from the word commiserari (Latin, c.1600), which means "to pity or bewail." Still, the 1600s are pretty recent as far as words go, so I kept reading for more history.
Even Latin words come from other words (usually also Latin ones, since the Romans didn't have much else to work with. They thought the Greeks were barbarians and didn't want to muddy up their precious Latin with that nasty Greek), and commiserari came to the 1600s from miserere. It's used in Psalm 51:1, Miserere mei Deus . . . Have mercy upon me, O God.
Miserere started out meaning "wretchedness." In Psalm 51, miserere is closer to "pity" or "mercy" than "wretchedness," but can you see how closely our wretchedness is linked to God's mercy?
Sometimes I start looking at the origin of a word and wind up somewhere far out in left field, and God is waiting there to bless me. His Word and his words are perfect.
Be thankful ~