Monday, July 12, 2004

Etymology Today from M-W: primordial \pry-MOR-dee-uhl
1 a : first created or developed : primeval b : existing in or persisting from the beginning (as of a solar system or universe) c : earliest formed in the growth of an individual or organ : primitive
2 : fundamental, primary

The history of "primordial" began when the Latin words "primus" (meaning "first") and "ordiri" (meaning "to begin") came together to form "primordium," the Latin word for "origin." When it entered English in the 14th century, "primordial" was used in the general sense "primeval or primitive." Early on, there were hints that "primordial" would lend itself well to discussions of the earth's origins. Take, for instance, this passage from a 1398 translation of an encyclopedia called On the Properties of Things: "The virtu of God made primordial mater, in the whiche as it were in massy thinge the foure elementis were ... nought distinguishd." Nowadays, this primordial matter is often referred to in evolutionary theory as "primordial soup," a mixture of organic molecules from which life on earth originated.

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