Hello, my smart followers!
It’s Tuesday and as (somewhat less than) usual, it’s time for our weekly Fun Etymology!
Today’s word is “concert”.
When we think of concerts today, we mostly think about music. Whether it is a roaring rock or metal concert, or a refined classical concert, most of us have probably taken part in and, hopefully, enjoyed at least one of two.
The story of the word, however, is pretty curious, and at one point its meaning even flipped 180 degrees.
The word “concert” ultimately comes from Latin “concertare”, from “cum”, ‘with’ + “certare”, ‘fight’. The original meaning was ‘fight against’. How did it go from that to a music get-together? Well, in medieval Italian, the meaning of the word unexpectedly flipped to mean ‘to work together’, the exact opposite of its original meaning! We don’t really know how this happened, but the most likely explanation is that the first switch happened due to confusion between the two meanings of Latin “cum”: ‘against’ and ‘together with’. The word would then have switched from meaning ‘fight against’ to ‘fight alongside’.
From there it moved to English in a musical context through the influx of Italian musical vocabulary that accompanied the formalisation of musical theory in the late 17th century.