Etymologie, Etimología, Étymologie, Etimologia, Etymology, (griech.) etymología, (lat.) etymologia, (esper.) etimologio
UK Vereinigtes Königreich Großbritannien und Nordirland, Reino Unido de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte, Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d'Irlande du Nord, Regno Unito di Gran Bretagna e Irlanda del Nord, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, (esper.) Britujo
Wortart, Clase de Palabra, Catégorie grammaticale, Parte del Discorso, Part of Speech, (esper.) vortgrupa gramatiko, sintagma gramatiko
Adjektiv, Adjetivo, Adjectif, Aggettivo, Adjective, (esper.) adjektivoj








gut (W3)

Die Herkunft von dt. "gut", engl. "good", mhdt., ahdt. "guot", got. "goÞs", schwed. "god" verweist auf eine Verwandtschaft mit dt. "Gitter", "Gatter", "vergattern", "Gatte" und wird auf ide. "*ghedh-" = dt. "umklammern", "fest zusammenfügen", "zupassen", zurückgeführt; dazu auch aind. "a-gadhita-h" = dt. "angeklammert". Das gemeingermanische Adjektiv wird demnach mit der Bedeutung "passend" versehen - "in ein Baugefüge passend", "in eine menschliche Gemeinschaft passend". Die ursprüngliche Bedeutung von dt. "gut", engl. "good" ist nicht ethisch/moralische aufgeladen sondern passt eher zu dt. "brauchbar", "tauglich", "günstig", "tüchtig", "brav", "wacker", "wirksam", auch "anständig", "ehrlich", "gütig", "freundlich", "hold" - was ja auch heute noch als "gut" bezeichnet wird. - Wie heißt es im Saarland?: "Hauptsach gudd gess.".


If God is not good, what is the origin of “good”?

"Good" is a Common Germanic adjective and turns up more than once even in Gothic, the oldest recorded Germanic language. The Gothic text is a translation from Greek of parts of the New Testament. "Goths" ~ "gods" (modernized spelling) render in it Greek "agathós", "khrestós", and "kalós", that is, "good", "kind", "able", "beautiful". It occurs as an attribute of a servant, a soldier, and a shepherd and carries rather obvious connotations of efficiency, rather than "goodness". Also, the words for "heart" and "work" occur in Gothic with this adjective, and there, too, the same overtones are obvious. We use the adjective "good" freely: "good man", "good food", "good house", and so forth, but in Old Germanic, this word had the connotations "worthy", "noble" and was much more often applied to people than things. In the Old English heroic poem Beowulf, an early line praises a "good (possibly, strong, kind, and generous) king". Elsewhere, "god" ("o" designates a long vowel) also means "efficient", "strong", "brave". In Old Norse, this adjective can be safely translated as "efficient", "noble".

Medieval Scandinavia is rich in rune stones. They contain memorial inscriptions, mostly to the relatives fallen in battle, and the word for "good" occurs there with great regularity. The dead son or brother is often called "good", obviously, "courageous", "valiant", "brave". With time, the Christian overtones "virtuous", "pious" (as in a "good Samaritan", "Good Friday", the exclamation "Goodness" gracious, and the like) became more and more prominent, and nowadays, good is a colorless epithet of approval (compare good for you). As always in such cases, the best etymology of "good" should reckon with the oldest senses of this word, among which "efficient" is the most prominent.

(A parenthetic remark. Pay attention to the irregular degrees of comparison: "good—better". A similar case is "bad—worse". It seems that "good" and "bad" were qualities that could not be "quantified", like "small—smaller", "big—bigger", or "old—older". This is an intriguing aside on so-called suppletive forms. See the post for 9 January 2013: “How come that the past of "go" is "went"?” Don’t miss the numerous comments following that old post.)

Why is "bad ~ badly" but "good ~ well"? One can spend a goodly part of one’s life thinking about the best answer.

In the etymology of "good", the thorniest question is whether the Germanic word has anything to do with "agathós". The Greek adjective has the same overtones as its Germanic counterpart. Homer’s usage is unmistakable. "Agathós" often occurs in his poems because, among other things, it fits the hexameter so well. And yet, the two words are, almost certainly, not related (I’ll skip references to the rich literature devoted to this question). The origin of "agathós" is unknown, and it is unclear whether, from the historical point of view, it is "aga-thós" “very fit for war, running fast” or "a-gathós", with the obscure element "a". According to an often-invoked rule, one word of unknown origin can provide no help in a search for the etymology of another opaque word. (Sorry for repeating this maxim with such regularity.)

The Germanic root of "good" was "goth-", but in the process of reconstructing an ancient root of Indo-European, Greek "th" does not correspond to Germanic "th". Direct borrowing is out of the question. Other Greek words have been cited as possible cognates of "good", but those hypotheses died without issue. With some regret, historical linguists began to look for a different etymology of "good", and, it seems, discovered it. This is the etymology one can find, even if sometimes with a bit of hedging, in all modern dictionaries.

Here are some words, presumably having the same root as "good": Engl. "gather" (from Old Engl. "gaderian") and "gether", "together", Sanskrit "gadh–" “to cling to”, Latvian "goùdas" “honor, glory”, and especially the Slavic words with the root "god-". Those words mean “fit, usable; to please, pleasing; profit; in advance; good weather” and in dialects, also “considerable; worthy, valuable; pleasant, pretty”. Equally instructive are Old Engl. "gada", "gegada" and "gæde-ling" (both mean “companion, comrade”), with several cognates in Germanic denoting “friend; relative”. They always refer to being connected or fitting. Russian "god" means “year”, initially, as it seems, “a proper, good season for some work”. This semantic leap should not surprise us. In the remote past, people seldom needed a word for “a whole year”, perhaps mainly or only when they described a lamb or a calf as a yearling. Only later, some noun acquired the modern sense. The same is true of Engl. "year". Its cognates outside Germanic usually mean “season; spring; summer”. Elsewhere, this root occurs in words meaning “to go, pass”. In Slavic studies, the root "god–" has also been compared with Greek "agathós", but there, too, this comparison was eventually given up. Above, I wrote that the Germanic adjective could under no circumstances be borrowed form Greek. The solid Slavic connection makes the idea of borrowing from Greek into two branches of Indo-European even more improbable.

As a general rule, abstract meanings go back to concrete, more tangible ones. Before such a vague idea as that contained in the adjective "good" became universal, people seem to have asked themselves: “Good for what?” In our case, the answer is “good for being connected or fastened, for belonging together”, that is, “proper, fitting”. Today, as noted above, a man, a book, food, and anything, including weather and life, can be good or bad. Such was not the situation at the dawn of civilization.

Rather long ago, I wrote several posts about the word "bad" (17 June, 24 June, 8 July, and 15 July 2015). One can see that the opposite of "good" is, from an etymological point of view, an even harder word than "good". This result makes sense: “good” is, at least to a certain extent, concrete, but “bad” is only “not good” and can evolve from any unpleasant fact or sensation.

Abfrage im Google-Corpus mit 15Mio. eingescannter Bücher von 1500 bis heute.

Engl. "good" taucht in der Literatur um das Jahr 1510 auf.


Erstellt: 2023-11









Part of Speech - Comparative Adjectives


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2 AJC comparative adjective e.g. better, older

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Part of Speech - Superlative Adjectives


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3 AJS superlative adjective, e.g. best, oldest

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