Monthly Archives: December 2011

A brief history of the word: Company

I love the history of words. In highschool I had a etymology dictionary and it was something I liked to glance through to find out the Greek/Latin roots of words. I think this helped me on my SAT’s.

One of the reasons I love words is because through their history we can find meaning. The history of words is not benign. They tell us about human thinking and society and what we truly mean. We stand on two feet for a reason (evolution) and we say the words “victory” for a reason (linguistic evolution).

With the economy (original greek word oikonomikos meaning: management of the household) being on the tip of everyone’s tongues I thought I’d look into the history of two words that 99% of the people focus on. (Side story: the word “Occupy” has an interesting history – in the 16th century it was a euphemism for sex, causing it to fall from good grace as a polite word).

The word “corporation” derives from corpus, the Latin word for body, or a “body of people.”

The word company has more “friendly” beginnings. Company as in a “companion” is also latin and literally translates to “bread fellow” or somebody you break bread with. Com (together) and “panis” which is latin for bread.

It seems that in the ‘economic’ discussion of the have’s vs. the have-nots we talk about “corporations” being part of the problem. I don’t think it’s a problem that people come together to form entities that make money. The problem is how they regard themselves and how we look at them. They act like corporations when they need to be companies. Who could be against a bunch of people coming together to break bread?