I attended a retreat today, for my job. Before I attended the thing, I was going to write a post about the word retreat. This morning, I kept saying it over and over: retreat, retreat, retreat. It made me think of being on horseback; or, rather, of being on horseback and full of cowardice, charging the opposite direction of the battle. I actually started a post about the word retreat but once I typed the title (retreat), rather than thinking about being on horseback, I thought about what it would mean to re-treat someone, to give them a treat all over again. And then I decided the whole endeavor was silly, and that I shouldn’t post anything at all.

Later, though, at the retreat itself, the word’s etymology was brought into question. The person who brought it up suggested that the term came from Christianity, and I was intrigued; what I wanted to know, really, was whether or not horses were a part of this Christian etymology.

I found this site online, and the word’s origins were even better than I imagined, even if, as far as I can tell, they have nothing to do with Christianity or horses.

retreat (n.)

c.1300, from O.Fr. retret, noun use of pp. of retrere "draw back," from L. retrahere "draw back," from re- "back" + trahere "to draw" (see tract (1)). Meaning "place of seclusion" is from 1423; sense of "establishment for mentally ill persons" is from 1797. The verb is first attested 1422.

I love etymologies, and Etymology Online may be my new favorite website. I’m going to go and bookmark it right now. You should too. And when you’re done, ride back over here and tell me what your favorite etymological definition is.

Go on, now.


1 comment:

Lisa said...

Huh. I found that foodie, which I would have thought was coined only recently, has been around since 1982. Could have sworn I had never heard that term until maybe a couple of years ago. Guess it's like when you buy a new (to you) car, and suddenly you notice how many cars like it are on the road.

That is a nice site.