Monday, October 18, 2010

The "Werewolf"

Being the young man that I am, I Love monster movies.  Well... not always. I'm a big critic, and many monster flicks today are meant for the general public and tend to have tragically Hollywoodesque storylines.

Anyway, I Love the lore that these monsters are based on.  I'm not going to go into too much depth as to how myths about werewolves began, or whatever, but I do want to take a closer look at the name. "Werewolf." We know it literally means man-wolf, but what does the "WERE" come from.

Well, I hadn't ever given it any thought until this one day in a Latin class of mine.  We had just learned that the Latin word for man was "VIR".  The letter V in Latin is pronounced the exact same way we in English would pronounce the letter W.  The rest of the word is pronounced as it would be in the Spanish language, so by rolling the R at the end of VIR it sounds like you're pronouncing "weed".

At this point, it still hadn't clicked to me; the similarity of VIR and WERE.  Soon though, a classmate of mine mispronounced vir and said "were".  I mulled the two over in my mind a little and after class I asked the teacher if there was any connection.  He said he didn't know, but that it would make sense because it meant man-wolf.

Sure enough, there is some connection between vir and were, as I read here.  The Old English word for man is "WER", coming directly from a Germanic language.  But both the Germanic and Latin origin of the word come from the same family of languages (if I get around to it someday, I'll attempt to cover what exactly the Indo-European language family is).

So yes! There is a connection between the Latin word for man and the monsters we see on tv and read about in books.


Also brought out in the article were other words that are derived by vir: Virile and virility. Vir can also be a word to describe masculinity, so virile has to do with it's strength. Other words include virtue and virtuous (signs of strength or manliness).

But the really cool thing brought out in this article (besides the origin of the word werewolf) was that our word "world", although hidden over time, literally means "man-age".