The etymology of the English word man

The etymology of the English word man









8 October 2022

The word “human” is not related to man; it’s a complete coincidence that one contains the other because human comes from the Latin homanus, which was derived from homo, meaning same.

The etymology of the English word’ man’ is as follows:

Old English man, mann, brave man, hero; servant, vassal.” 

From Proto-Germanic manwaz (cognates: Old Saxon, Swedish, Dutch, Old High German man, German Mann, Old Norse maðr, Danish mand, 

Gothic manna “man”), from PIE root *man-  “man” (cognates: Sanskrit manuh, Avestan manu-, Old Church Slavonicmozi, Russian muzh “man, male”). “

If one examines the etymology presented, it appears quite uncertain on various counts.

Greek Tamil Link. Research into the genetic links between Greek and Tamil led me to lot of common words in the core vocabulary of both languages.

One such word is the word’ man’. In Tamil ,’ mann’மண் means ‘earth, soil’. The one who lives on’ mann'(earth) or one who is born of’ mann ‘is ‘maanudan'(with the earth). Maanudan is a ‘male’ form. In Tamil ‘male’ is called ‘aan’ஆண் which means’ one who rules’. Now the term ‘aan’ is also found in Greek as ‘Andro’ .This word evolved as maanudan mannithan manithan மனிதன் which is’ man’. This word’ manithan’ is appropriated by Sanskrit as’ manushan manush’. So it is clear that the word man is derived from Tamil word ‘manithan’ through the intermediate Greek.

Plural men (German Männer) shows effects of i-mutation. Sometimes connected to root men- “to think” (see mind), which would make the ground sense of man “one who has intelligence,” but not all linguists accept this.

So I am as he that seythe, `Come hyddr John, my man.’ [1473]

Sense of “adult male” is late (c. 1000); Old English used wer and wif to distinguish the sexes, but wer began to disappear late 13th century. and was replaced by man. 

Similarly, Latin had homo and vir “adult male human being,” but they merged in Vulgar Latin, with homoextended to both senses. A like evolution took place in Slavic languages, and in some of them the word has narrowed to mean “husband.” PIE had two stems: *uiHro “freeman” (source of Sanskrit vira-, Lithuanian vyras, Latin vir, Old Irish fer, Gothic wair) and *hner “man,” a title more of honour than *uiHro (source of Sanskrit nar-, Armenian ayr, Welsh ner, Greek aner).

Old English “man” was effectively used to refer to both genders. They had two words to refer to males and females; “Wer” and “Wif” or “Werman” and “Wifman”.

“Wif” became the modern “wife”, while “Wifman” transitioned into “woman”. Possibly due to the interactions with both the Normans and Nords, “Wer” was effectively dropped, and “man” on its own became the word for both male humans, and humans as a whole.

“Wer” still survives in isolated words like “Werewolf”

In modern times, “man” still has its “neutral” meaning in certain contexts, specifically in other compound words like “mankind” and “manslaughter” and when “man” is used as a collective noun.


Mind (n.)

Plural men (German Männer) shows effects of i-mutation. Sometimes connected to root men- “to think” (see mind), which would make the ground sense of man “one who has intelligence,” but not all linguists accept this.

“That which feels, wills, and thinks; the intellect,” late 12th century., mynd, from Old English gemynd “memory, remembrance; state of being remembered; thought, purpose; conscious mind, intellect, intention,” Proto-Germanic ga-mundiz (source also of Gothic muns “thought,” munan “to think;” Old Norse minni “mind;” German Minne (archaic) “love,” originally “memory, loving memory”), from suffixed form of PIE root ‘men’ “to think,” with derivatives referring to qualities of mind or states of thought.

Meaning “mental faculty, the thinking process” is from c. 1300. Sense of “intention, purpose” is from c. 1300. From late 14th century. as “frame of mind. mental disposition,” also “way of thinking, opinion.” “Memory,” one of the oldest senses, now is almost obsolete except in old expressions such as bear in mind (late 14th century.), call to mind (early 15th century.), keep in mind (late 15th century.).

Mind’s eye “mental view or vision, remembrance” is from early 15th century. To pay no mind “disregard” is recorded by 1910, American English dialect. To make up (one’s) mind “determine, come to a definite conclusion” is by 1784. To have a mind “be inclined or disposed” (to do something) is by 1540s; to have half a mind to “to have one’s mind half made up to (do something)” is recorded from 1726. Out of (one’s) mind “mad, insane” is from late 14th century.; out of mind “forgotten” is from c. 1300; phrase time out of mind “time beyond people’s memory” is attested from early 15th century. 

mind (v.)

mid-14th century., “to remember, call to mind, take care to remember,” also “to remind oneself,” from mind (n.). The Old English verb was myngian, myndgian, from West Germanic munigon “to remind.” Meaning “perceive, notice” is from late 15th century.; that of “to give heed to, pay attention to” is from 1550s; that of “be careful about” is from 1737. Sense of “object to dislike” is from c. 1600. Meaning “to take care of, look after” is from 1690s. Related: Minded; minding.

Negative use “(not) to care for, to trouble oneself with” is attested from c. 1600; never mind “don’t let it trouble you” is by 1778; the meiotic expression don’t mind if I do is attested from 1847.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit manas- “mind, spirit,” matih “thought,” munih “sage, seer;” Avestan manah- “mind, spirit;” Greek memona “I yearn,” mania “madness,” mantis “one who divines, prophet, seer;” Latin mens “mind, understanding, reason,” memini “I remember,” mentio “remembrance;” Lithuanian mintis “thought, idea,” Old Church Slavonic mineti “to believe, think,” Russian pamjat “memory;” Gothic gamunds, Old English gemynd “memory, remembrance; conscious mind, intellect.”

Further Study
Journey Into The Etymology Of Words