Results 1 to 6 of 6

Hybrid View

Previous Post Previous Post   Next Post Next Post
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    San Francisco
    Thanked 492 Times in 226 Posts

    Art Terms: Etymologies of Interest

    I haven't come across anything like this yet, so I figured it was time to start putting my preoccupation with philology to good use. Maybe get a sticky going, or a few links.

    Art Terms: Etymologies of Interest

    Understanding the history of a word helps us to use it in a more nuanced and technical way. Its also just interesting to see how ideas and terms can undergo subtle changes over time. To that end, I thought I'd start collecting some relevant etymologies and post them here for others to check out. Maybe it will also help those for whom English is a second language.

    For a contemporary glossary of 'specific' visual arts terms, you'll probably find what you're looking for at a site more like this: What follows here is instead a more general exploration of word histories. Feel free to contribute any others you come across, and I'll edit them into the main listing. Most of these are taken from the online etymology resource at:, (which can be a bit unweildy at times), but I'll update them with some more comprehensive definitions once I have a little free time to transcribe the stuff on the bookshelf.

    Part 1

    1387, from L. abstractus "drawn away," pp. of abstrahere, from ab(s)- "away" + trahere "draw" (see tract). Meaning "withdrawn or separated from material objects or practical matters" is from 1557; specifically in ref. to the arts, it dates from 1915. Abstract expressionism from 1952

    1798, from German ästhetisch or French esthétique, both from Greek aisthetikos "sensitive," from aisthanesthai "to perceive, to feel," from Proto Indo European *awis-dh-yo-, from base *au- "to perceive." Popularized in English by translation of Immanuel Kant, and used originally in the classically correct sense "the science which treats of the conditions of sensuous perception." Kant had tried to correct the term after Baumgarten had taken it in German to mean "criticism of taste" (1750s), but Baumgarten's sense attained popularity in English. c.1830s (despite scholarly resistance) and removed the word from any philosophical base. Walter Pater used it (1868 ) to describe the late 19c. movement that advocated "art for art's sake," which further blurred the sense. The noun Aesthete is first recorded 1881.

    c.1225, "skill as a result of learning or practice," from O.Fr. art, from Latin artem, (nom. ars) "art, skill, craft," from Proto Indo-European (PIE) *ar-ti- (cf. Sanskrit. rtih "manner, mode;" Greek arti "just," artios "complete;" Armenian arnam "make," German art "manner, mode"), from base *ar- "fit together, join" (see arm (1)). In Middle English usually with sense of "skill in scholarship and learning" (c.1305), especially in the seven sciences, or liberal arts (divided into the trivium -- grammar, logic, rhetoric -- and the quadrivium --arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). This sense remains in Bachelor of Arts, etc. Meaning "human workmanship" (as opposed to nature) is from 1386. Sense of "cunning and trickery" first attested c.1600. Meaning "skill in creative arts" is first recorded 1620; esp. of painting, sculpture, etc., from 1668. Broader sense of the word remains in artless (1589). As an adj. meaning "produced with conscious artistry" (as opposed to popular or folk) it is attested from 1890, possibly from infl. of Ger. kunstlied "art song" (cf. art film, 1960; art rock, c.1970). Fine arts, "those which appeal to the mind and the imagination" first recorded 1767. Art brut "art done by prisoners, lunatics, etc.," is 1955, from Fr., lit. "raw art." Artsy "pretentiously artistic" is from 1902.

    1581, "one who cultivates one of the fine arts," from M. French artiste, from Italian artista, from Medieval Latin artista, from Latin ars (see art). Originally used especially of the arts presided over by the Muses (history, poetry, comedy, tragedy, music, dancing, astronomy), but also used 17c. for "one skilled in any art or craft" (including professors, surgeons, craftsmen, cooks). Now especially of "one who practices the arts of design or visual arts" (a sense first attested 1747). Artistic first recorded 1753; artistry 1868. Fr. artiste, a reborrowing of artist after the sense of artist had become limited toward the visual arts and especially painting

    1840, from Fr., from O.Fr. astelier "workshop," from astele "small plank, a shaving, splinter," probably from L.L. hastella "a thin stick," dim. of hasta "spear, shaft."

    c.1275, from Anglo-Norm. beute, from Old French bealte, earlier beltet, from Vulgar Latin bellitatem "state of being handsome," from Latin bellus "fine, beautiful," in classical L. used especially of women and children, or ironically or insultingly of men. Famously defined by Stendhal as la promesse de bonheur "the promise of happiness." Replaced Old English wlite.

    Canvas (n)
    1260, from Anglo-Fr. canevaz, from O.Fr. canevas, from V.L. *cannapaceus "made of hemp," from L. cannabis, from Gk. kannabis "hemp," a Scythian or Thracian word.

    1556, from M.Latin conceptum "draft, abstract," in Latin "(a thing) conceived," from pp. of concipere "to take in" (see conceive). In some 16c. cases a refashioning of conceit (perhaps to avoid negative connotations); conception in the womb sense was c.1300

    c.1225, from O.Fr. colur, from L. color (acc. colorem) "color, hue," from Old L. colos, orig. "a covering" (akin to celare "to hide, conceal"), from PIE base *kel- "to cover, conceal" (see cell). O.E. words for "color" were hiw, bleo. The verb is from c.1300, earliest use is figurative. Colorful "interesting" is from 1889.

    O.E. cræft "power, strength, might," from P.Gmc. *krab-/*kraf-. Sense shifted to "skill, art" (via a notion of "mental power"), which led to the n. meaning of "trade." Use for "small boat" is first recorded 1671, probably from some nautical sense of "vessels of small craft," referring either to the trade they did or the seamanship they required.

    c.1386, from L. creatus, pp. of creare "to make, produce," related to crescere "arise, grow" (see crescent). Creator for "Supreme Being" (c.1300) drove out native scieppend, from verb scieppan (see shape). Creative is from 1678, originally literal; of the arts, meaning "imaginative," from 1816, first attested in Wordsworth. Creative writing is from 1907. The native word for creation in the Biblical sense was O.E. frum-sceaft.

    O.E. dragan "to drag, to draw" (class VI strong verb; past tense drog, pp. dragen), from P.Gmc. *draganan "carry," from PIE base *dhragh- (see drag). Sense of "make a line or figure" (by "drawing" a pencil across paper) is c.1200. Meaning "pull out a weapon" is c.1200. Colloquial n. sense of "anything that can draw a crowd" is from 1881 (the verb in this sense is 1586).

    1548, from L. designare "mark out, devise," from de- "out" + signare "to mark," from signum "a mark, sign." Originally in Eng. with the meaning now attached to designate (1646, from L. designatus, pp. of designare); many modern uses of design are metaphoric extensions.

    c.1500, spelling variant of draught (q.v.) to reflect change in pronunciation. Meaning "rough copy of a writing" (something "drawn") is attested from 14c.; that of "preliminary sketch from which a final copy is made" is from 1528. The meaning "to draw off a group for special duty" is from 1703, in U.S. especially of military service

    c.1205, from O.E. *dreaht, *[i]dræht[i], related to dragan "to draw, drag" (see drag). Oldest sense besides that of "pulling" is of "drinking;" meaning "current of air" ("drawn" through an opening) is 18c. It retains the functions that did not branch off with draft.

    Fine (adj)
    c.1300, from O.Fr. fin "perfected, of highest quality," from L. finis "end, limit," hence "acme, peak, height," as in finis boni "the highest good." In Fr., the main meaning remains "delicate, intricately skillful;" in Eng. since c.1440 fine is also a general expression of admiration or approval, the equiv. of Fr. beau (cf. fine arts, 1767, translating Fr. beaux-arts). Finery "gaudy decoration" is first attested 1680. Fine print "qualifications and limitations of a deal" first recorded 1960. Fine-tune (v.) is 1969, a back-formation from fine-tuning (1924), originally in reference to radio receivers.

    c.1225, from O.Fr. forme, from L. forma "form, mold, shape, case," origin unknown. One theory holds that it is from Gk. morphe "form, beauty, outward appearance" (see morphine) via Etruscan. Sense of "behavior" is first recorded c.1386. The verb is attested from 1297.

    1500, from M.Fr. galerie "a long portico," from M.L. galeria, of uncertain origin, perhaps alteration of galilea "church porch," which is probably from L. Galilaea "Galilee," the northernmost region of Palestine; church porches sometimes were so called from being at the far end of the church. Sense of "building to house art" first recorded 1591

    1610, "traced" (implied in graphical), from L. graphicus "picturesque," from Gk. graphikos "of or for writing, belonging to drawing, picturesque," from graphe "writing, drawing," from graphein "write," originally "to scratch" on clay tablets with a stylus. Meaning "of or pertaining to drawing" is from 1756; that of "vivid" is from 1669, on the notion of words that produce the effect of a picture.

    1561, originally a noun, from M.Fr. crotesque, from It. grottesco, lit. "of a cave," from grotta (see grotto). Used first of paintings found on the walls of basements of Roman ruins, characterized by fanciful or odd representations of animal or human forms (It. pittura grottesca). Originally "fanciful, fantastic," later "bizarre." Then sense became pejorative after mid-18c.

    1298, "small horse, pony," later "mock horse used in the morris dance," and c.1550 "child's toy riding horse," which led to a transferred sense of "favorite pastime or avocation," first recorded 1676. The connecting notion being "activity that doesn't go anywhere." Probably originally a proper name for a horse (cf. dobbin), a dim. of Robert or Robin.

    c.1375, "a spiritual illumination," from O.Fr. illustration, from L. illustrationem (nom. illustratio) "vivid representation" (in writing), lit. "an enlightening," from illustrare "light up, embellish, distinguish," from in- "in" + lustrare "make bright, illuminate." Mental sense of "act of making clear in the mind" is from 1581. Meaning "an illustrative picture" is from 1816. Illustrate "educate by means of examples," first recorded 1612. Sense of "provide pictures to explain or decorate" is 1638.

    c.1225, "artificial representation that looks like a person or thing," from O.Fr. image, earlier imagene (11c.), from L. imaginem (nom. imago) "copy, statue, picture, idea, appearance," from stem of imitari "to copy" (see imitate). Meaning "reflection in a mirror" is c.1315. The mental sense was in L., and appears in Eng.
    Last edited by Jasonwclark; July 25th, 2009 at 02:03 PM.

  2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to Jasonwclark For This Useful Post:

  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Thanked 1,452 Times in 259 Posts
    Wow, thanks for sharing this!
    I think you are awesome, and I wish you the best in your endeavors, but I am tired of repeating myself, I am very busy with my new baby, and I am no longer a regular participant here, so please do not contact me to ask for advice on your career or education. All of the advice that I have to offer can already be found in the following links. Thank you.

    Perspective 101, Concept Art 101, Games Industry info,Oil Paint info, Acrylic Paint info, my sketchbook.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    San Francisco
    Thanked 492 Times in 226 Posts
    No problem, happy to help out

    Part 2

    from O.E. line "rope, row of letters," and from O.Fr. ligne, both from L. linea "linen thread, string, line," from phrase linea restis "linen cord," from fem. of lineus (adj.) "of linen," from linum "linen". Oldest sense is "rope, cord, string;" extended 1382 to "a thread-like mark" (from sense "cord used by builders for making things level," 1340), also "track, course, direction." Sense of "things or people arranged in a straight line" is from 1557. That of "cord bearing hooks used in fishing" is from c.1300. Meaning "one's occupation, branch of business" is from 1638, probably from misunderstood KJV translation of 2 Cor. x.16, "And not to boast in another mans line of things made ready to our hand," where line translates Gk. kanon, lit. "measuring rod."

    Master (n)
    O.E. mægester "one having control or authority," from L. magister "chief, head, director, teacher" (cf. O.Fr. maistre, Fr. maître, It. maestro, Ger. Meister), infl. in M.E. by O.Fr. maistre, from L. magister, contrastive adj. from magis (adv.) "more," itself a comp. of magnus "great." In academic senses (from M.L. magister) it is attested from 1380s, originally a degree conveying authority to teach in the universities. The verb is attested from c.1225. Masterpiece is from 1605, a translation of Du. meesterstuk "work by which a craftsman attains the rank of master" (cf. Ger. Meisterstück).

    Model (n)
    1575, "architect's set of designs," from M.Fr. modelle (Fr. modèle), from It. modello "a model, mold," from V.L. *modellus, dim. of L. modulus "measure, standard," dim. of modus "manner, measure" (see mode (1)). Sense of "thing or person to be imitated" is 1639. Sense of "artist's model" is first recorded 1691; that of "fashion model" is from 1904. The verb is 1665 in the sense of "fashion in clay or wax;" 1915 in the sense "to act as a model, to display (clothes)." The adj. is 1844, from the noun.

    1315, from L. originalis, from originem (nom. origo) "beginning, source, birth," from oriri "to rise" (see orchestra). The first ref. is in original sin "innate depravity of man's nature," supposed to be inherited from Adam in consequence of the Fall. The noun, in sense of "original text," is attested from c.1385, from M.L. originale. Of photographs, films, sound recordings, etc., from 1918. Origin first recorded 1563. Originality is first attested 1742, probably after Fr. originalité.

    c.1225 (implied in painting "result of applying paint"), from O.Fr. peinter, from peint, pp. of peindre "to paint," from L. pingere "to paint," from PIE base *pik-/*pig- "cut." Sense evolution between PIE and L. was, presumably, from "decorate with cut marks" to "decorate" to "decorate with color." Cf. Skt. pingah "reddish," pesalah "adorned, decorated, lovely," pimsati "hews out, cuts, carves, adorns;" O.C.S. pegu "variegated;" Gk. poikilos "variegated;" O.H.G. fehjan "to adorn;" O.C.S. pisati, Lith. piesiu "to write." Probably representing the "cutting" branch of the family are O.E. feol (see file (n.)); O.C.S. pila "file, saw," Lith. pela "file." The noun is from 1602. The verb meaning "to color with paint" (c.1250) is earlier than the artistic sense of "to make a picture of" (c.1290) and older than painting in the sense of "an artist's picture in paint" (c.1388 ); but painter is older in the sense of "artist who paints pictures" (1340) than in the sense of "workman who colors surfaces with paint" (c.1400); from O.Fr. peintour, from L. pictor, from pingere. As a surname, it is attested from 1240, but impossible to say which sense is meant. To paint the town (red) "go on a spree" first recorded 1884; to paint (someone or something) black "represent it as wicked or evil" is from 1596. Adj. paint-by-numbers "simple" is attested by 1970.

    "a lord-master, a protector," c.1300, from O.Fr. patrun (12c.), from M.L. patronus "patron saint, bestower of a benefice, lord, master, model, pattern," from L. patronus "defender, protector, advocate," from pater (gen. patris) "father." Meaning "one who advances the cause" (of an artist, institution, etc.), usually by the person's wealth and power, is attested from 1377.

    c.1386, "an artist's fine brush of camel hair," from O.Fr. pincel "artist's paintbrush" (Fr. pinceau), from L. penicillus "paintbrush, pencil," lit. "little tail," dim. of peniculus "brush," itself a dim. of penis "tail". Small brushes formerly used for writing before modern lead or chalk pencils; meaning "graphite writing implement" apparently evolved late 16c. Derogatory slang pencil-pusher "office worker" is from 1881; pencil neck "weak person" first recorded 1973. To pencil (something) in "arrange tentatively" is attested from 1942.

    c.1380, "science of optics," from O.Fr. perspective, from M.L. perspectiva ars "science of optics," from fem. of perspectivus "of sight, optical" from L. perspectus, pp. of perspicere "inspect, look through," from per- "through" + specere "look at" (see scope (1)). Sense of "art of drawing objects so as to give appearance of distance or depth" is first found 1598, influenced by It. prospettiva, an artists' term. The fig. meaning "mental outlook over time" is first recorded 1762.

    c.1420, from L. pictura "painting," from pictus, pp. of pingere "to make pictures, to paint, to embroider," (see paint). The verb, in the mental sense, is from 1738; pictures "movies," short for moving pictures, is from 1912. Picture post-card first recorded 1899. Phrase every picture tells a story first attested 1906, in an advertisement for kidney pills; a picture is worth a thousand words (1921).

    c.1325, "to repeat," from O.Fr. rendre "give back, present, yield," from V.L. *rendere (formed on analogy of its antonym, prendre "to take"), from L. reddere "give back, return, restore," from re- "back" + comb. form of dare "to give" (see date (1)). Meaning "hand over, deliver" is recorded from c.1375; "to return (thanks, etc.)" is attested from 1484; meaning "represent, depict" is first attested 1599. Rendering "extracting or melting of fat" is attested from 1792; sense of "reproduction, representation" is from 1862.

    O.E. sceadu "shade, shadow, darkness," also "shady place, protection from glare or heat," from P.Gmc. *skadwo (cf. O.S. skado, M.Du. scade, Du. schaduw, O.H.G. scato, Ger. Schatten, Goth. skadus), from PIE *skotwa, from base *skot- "dark, shade" (cf. Gk. skotos "darkness," Alb. kot "darkness," O.Ir. scath, O.Welsh scod, Bret. squeut "darkness"). Meaning "grade of color" first recorded 1690 (cf. Fr. nuance, from nue "cloud"). Meaning "ghost" is from 1616. Sense of "window blind" first recorded 1867, Amer.Eng. The verb meaning "to screen from light or heat" is recorded from c.1400.

    Shape (n.)
    O.E. gesceap "creation, form, destiny," from root of shape (v). Meaning "contours of the body" is attested from c.1393. Meaning "condition, state" is first recorded 1865, Amer.Eng. In M.E., the word also had a sense of "a woman's private parts." Shapely "well-formed" is recorded from 1382.

    O.E. scapan, pp. of scieppan "to create, form, destine," from P.Gmc. *skapjanan "create, ordain" (cf. O.N. skapa, Dan. skabe, O.Fris. skeppa, O.H.G. scaffan, Ger. schaffen), from PIE base *(s)kep- "to cut, to scrape, to hack" (see shave), which acquired broad technical senses and in Gmc. a specific sense of "to create." O.E. scieppan survived into M.E. as shippen, but shape emerged as a regular verb (with pt. shaped) by 1500s. The old past participle form shapen survives in misshapen. Phrase Shape up (v.) is attested from 1865 as "progress;" from 1938 as "reform;" shape up or ship out is attested from 1956, originally U.S. military slang, with the sense being "do right or get shipped up to active duty."

    from M.Fr. signature (16c.), from M.L. signatura "sign," in classical L. "the matrix of a seal," from signatus, pp. of signare "to mark, sign" (see sign). Meaning "one's own name written in one's own hand" is from 1580, replacing sign-manual (1428 ) in this sense.

    "rough drawing intended to serve as the bases for a finished picture," 1668, from Du. schets, from It. schizzo "sketch, drawing," lit. "a splash, squirt," from schizzare "to splash or squirt," of uncertain origin, perhaps from L. schedium "an extemporaneous poem," from Gk. skedios "temporary, extemporaneous," related to skhein, aor. inf. of ekhein "to have" (see scheme). Ger. Skizze, Fr. esquisse, Sp. esquicio are from Italian. The verb is attested from 1694. Extended sense of "brief account" is from 1668; meaning "short play or performance, usually comic" is from 1789. Sketchy first recorded 1805.

    c.1300, stile, "designation, title, manner or mode of expression," from O.Fr. estile "a stake, pale," from L. stilus "stake, instrument for writing, manner of writing, mode of expression," from PIE *sti-lo-, from base *sti- "point, prick, pierce" (see stick (v.)). Spelling modified by influence of Gk. stylos "pillar." Meaning "mode or fashion of life" is from 1770; that of "mode of dress" is from 1814. Stylish is first recorded 1797 in "Sense and Sensibility" (the adj. good is understood); and stylize is 1898, from Ger. Stilisieren.

    1817, from Fr. technique "formal practical details in artistic expression," noun use of adj. technique "of art, technical," from Gk. Tekhnikos. form of tekhne "art, skill, craft, method, system," probably from PIE base *tek- "shape, make."

    "color," 1717, alteration of tinct (1602), from L. tinctus "a dyeing," from tingere "to dye" (see tincture); infl. by It. tinta "tint, hue," from L. tinctus. The verb is attested from 1756 (implied in tinted).

    1374, "to make a plan or diagram," from O.Fr. trasser "delineate, score, trace, follow, pursue" (12c.), from V.L. *tractiare "delineate, score, trace" (cf. Sp. trazar "to trace, devise, plan out," It. tracciare "to follow by foot"), from L. tractus "track, course," lit. "a drawing out," from pp. stem of trahere "to pull, draw" (see tract). Meaning "to pass over" (a path, etc.) is attested from c.1381. Sense of "draw an outline of" is first recorded 1390. Meaning "copy a drawing on a transparent sheet laid over it" is recorded from 1762.

    "Quantity having magnitude and direction," 1704, from L. vector "one who carries or conveys, a carrier," from pp. stem of vehere "carry, convey" (see vehicle).
    Last edited by Jasonwclark; July 25th, 2009 at 02:08 PM.

  5. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Jasonwclark For This Useful Post:

  6. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    San Francisco
    Thanked 492 Times in 226 Posts
    More curious terms that have come up lately; edited into the main list with the others.
    I hit my word limit on that first post, so I shifted some things around and broke it into two parts.
    Last edited by Jasonwclark; March 2nd, 2008 at 04:01 PM.

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Vasa, Finland
    Thanked 1,210 Times in 438 Posts
    Etymologies rule.

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Your said very well. I want to play this game. Thanks million french translation

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 10
    Last Post: October 4th, 2009, 02:23 PM
  2. Concept Art Industry Terms?
    By Amber Alexander in forum Art Discussions
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: May 21st, 2009, 04:59 PM

Members who have read this thread: 0

There are no members to list at the moment.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Developed Actively by the makers of the Best Amazon Podcast