One of the most fascinating aspects of words is that they all have a past.
Some words in English, for example, can be shown to have been in place for more than 5000 years (P. Baldi, 1999).
Ordinarily we pay little attention to the words we articulate; we concentrate instead on the meaning we intend to express and we are seldom conscious of how we express that meaning.
Only if we make a mistake and we have to correct it or we have difficulty remembering a word we become conscious of our word.
This means that most of us do not know where the word we use come from and how they come to have the meaning they do.
English words come from several different sources. They developed naturally over the course of centuries from ancestral languages, they are also borrowed from other languages and we create many of them by various means of word vocabulary available to us today.
History and morphology of the word Mother
The idea of the mother goddess was invented in early ice age, some 25,000-30,000 years ago. She and her life giving breasts were called omma from which we have the words akin to maternal, matter, and mother.
By the late ice age the Semites had shortened omma to om. The Dravidians of India are Semites who migrated to India after the ice age. They still call mother goddess omm. Om is also the present day Arabic word for female and mother.
Omma became ma among the Iranians, meaning the female breast. From ma we have the Iranian maman.
Also, we have the Iranian ma-Dar (earlier ma-tar) meaning breast which became mater in Latin, modor in Old English (725), madre in modern Italian, and mother in modern English (1425), (R.K.Barnhant, 2000).
There are several words that fit together with the word mother.
? Mother Country
? Mother Nature
? Mother Figure
? Mother Tongue
? Mother Board
The word mother has a positive connotation as it describes maternal tenderness and affection although in American English mother could also mean motherfucker which carry a negative and vulgar meaning (Chambers, 1994).
Semantic field relation
The following are some semantic field relations to the word mother.
MotherVery Formal British English
MumInformal British English
MummyInformal British English mainly used by children
MomInformal American English
MommyInformal American English mainly used by children
MaInformal expression American and British English working class (often used with any much older woman)
MamInformal North England English and Welsh (working class)
MammyInformal Scottish English and North England English (working class)
MamaOld expression used by upper class children
MommaInformal American English
Source: McArthur (1981)
Synonyms and antonyms
There are several idioms related to the word mother, the following are the most used.
Mothers boy may have a positive or a negative connotation. It has a negative shade if it stands for a boy or man whose character and conduct is too much marked by maternal influence. On the other hand it has a positive nuance if it connotes a boy who has been the indisputable favourite of his mother.
Like mother like daughter it is used when a girl behaves like her mother.
Mother tongue means the language somebody first learned to speak as a child.
Mother Country stands for the country where somebody was born.
There are several words whose origin comes from the word mother:
? A real mother of a carThis is a colloquial expression referring to something very large and usually very good.
? Please, do not be a mother! Colloquial expression mainly used between youngsters with a slightly negative meaning.
Baldi, P (1999) Words on Word History, Baldi
Barnhant, RK (2000) Dictionary of Etymology, Chambers
Cowie, AP and Mackin, R (1990) Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English, Oxford University Press
Crystal, D (1996) Cambridge Encyclopaedia of the English Language, CUP
McArthur, T (1981) Lexicon of Contemporary English, Longman
Chambers (1994) The Chambers Dictionary, Chambers
Warren, H (1997) Oxford Learners Dictionary of English Idioms, Oxford University Press