The History of the Word Damn Essay

2378 Words10 Pages
The word "damn" has a long and complicated history. How it entered the English language and answering the questions how, when and why it has come to mean the things it does is difficult to answer. It can be used to mean condemn or condemn specifically to hall (by God), and can be used as mild profanity. Tracing the road damn has traveled to become both a religious term and a swear word shows many interesting features of language and the ways in which language are used.

The word damn entered the English language from the Old French word damne-r during the Middle English period and first appeared in writing in the early 14th c. (OED s.v. damn). In Latin the word dampnā-re meant to damage, hurt or condemn, which, with the suffix
…show more content…
So, if it is not a theological tern, then why does it only appear in religious texts? This could just be a coincidence since there were a lot of these sort of books around and many of them have survived. Also, while these texts are about religion and worship, they were written not written for religious scholars but for common people, and they did not yet need a new set of theological terms in English because scholarly work was done in Latin with Latin words (Crystal 128). English was the language of the lower classes since the Norman invasion, but by the time Cursor Mundi was written, the French aristocracy in England had lost their original ties to France and were beginning to speak English. These aristocrats still used many French words for prestige, but among the lower classes, English was seen as the right and natural language and French as the language of oppression and foreignness (Watson 334). Cursor Mundi tries to be as English as posible, stating to its readers that it is about “the love of Englis lede, / Englis lede of Engelande” (qtd. in Watson 334) and goes on to the superiority of English over French. So we can conclude that damn was not a theological term since the first texts it appeared in, while religious in content, are not theological works, and, in fact, the exact opposite is true: these

More about The History of the Word Damn Essay

Get Access