Podcast aborigine

Printable Version
Pronunciation: æ-bê-ri-jê-nee Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: A member of the people indigenous to a land, one of the earliest known inhabitants of a region.

Notes: Since Europeans generally colonize areas inhabited by nations less advanced than them, many English speakers take today's Good Word to mean "primitive" and it has become a rather unPC term in the US. However, there is no implication of primitivity in this word. The predecessors of the Romans, who originally created the word, were relatively advanced nations. Reducing it to abo, as some Australians do in referring to the aboriginal nations of Australians, is an offensive gesture to be avoided—which reminds me, aboriginal is the adjective.

In Play: Remember that today's word simply implies peoples who have inhabited a region since the beginning: "The American aborigines now are called Native Americans." Nothing wrong with that. An aborigine is simply someone whose roots go back as far as records or memory go: "Yale Brown is a European aborigine in America whose lineage can be traced back to Plymouth Rock."

Word History: Today's word is Latin Aborigines, a term that originally applied to the pre-Roman inhabitants of Rome. It is made up of ab "from, since" + origo (stem origin-) "beginning", a noun from the verb oriri "to arise, be born". The present participle of this verb is oriens "rising, being born", the genitive case of which is orientis, the (if you will pardon the expression) origin of English Orient. There has been much speculation about this root in English and other Germanic languages. It is possible that the R in run shares the same origin as the root (ori-) since it also led to Latin rivus "stream, brook", something that runs. (The origin of idea for today's Good Word was a man who goes by the name of Elliot Zero, to whom we are appropriately grateful.)

Dr. Goodword,

P.S. - Register for the Daily Good Word E-Mail! - You can get our daily Good Word sent directly to you via e-mail in either HTML or Text format. Go to our Registration Page to sign up today!