Etymology

We are aware that nothing is more unsafe and treacherous than the guidance of etymology. An ounce of usage is worth a pound of it. Etymology is theory, usage is fact. For instance, our common word prevent is compounded of pra and venio, to come or go before, and once it had that meaning, but it has long since lost it in common usage, in which it now means to hinder. Suppose two thousand years hence some one should endeavor to prove that in the year 1875 the word prevent meant to go before. He could establish his position by the etymology of the word, but he would be wholly wrong, as would appear by universal usage in our current literature. So that if we agree that the etymology of Aión indicates eternity to have been its original meaning, it by no means follows that it had that force in Greek literature. But its derivation does not point in that direction.

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