Why were buccaneers good with barbecues? How can a horse and a course be one and the same thing? Why might blessing someone in English be helpful, while blessing them in French might be harmful? Why is travel quite literally torture? If youre interested in finding out the answers to these questions and many others, then join the Etymology course. You will explore how words change over time in form, meaning and pronunciation, and how these developments have been studied and verified over the years. Above all, you will learn about the fascinating, quirky, unexpected, and unpredictable twists and turns that words have undergone from their origins to the present, and how history, society and culture have shaped these word journeys. Join us on your own journey through our language.

Who is this course for

This course is for anyone with an interest in the history and meanings of the words we use every day, and how those meanings have changed over time. You will need to have a good understanding of English (Level 2 for second language speakers) but you don't need to have a specialist knowledge of how language works.

What does this course cover

The course will cover the concepts involved in etymology, including meaning and pronunciation changes, factors affecting change, language families, word families and studies in etymology. The course will mostly focus on the history and development of words in the English language and will focus especially on influences that historical events have has on the vocabulary of English.

Students will have a much greater understanding of how language changes over time and how word meanings develop over time and how English vocabulary arrived in its present state. Students will also develop ways of finding out about language changes for themselves.

Second language learners are expected to develop a better understanding of English vocabulary and useful strategies to aid vocabulary learning.

At the end of the course, students should be able to continue investigating the etymology of English by themselves using the methodologies covered in the course.

What will it be like

The course will be taught largely through group discussion and problem-solving as well as teacher-led input. Students will be expected to do research for themselves out of class and share their findings and ideas in class. There will be regular quizzes and tests throughout the course aimed at testing knowledge and developing it further. At the end there will be a small research project undertaken by each student with the results assessed by the teacher and shared with the whole class.

What else do you need to buy or do

A good dictionary with etymologies would be useful, but not essential, as input would be mostly supplied by the teacher. Students would be expected to use etymology websites and resources and online dictionaries like and

What this course could lead to

tutor to advise

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I've been to many Centres to study in London and the Mary Ward Centre is one of the nicest I've studied in.

MWC student

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

Why come to Mary Ward Centre?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference.   We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable.

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’