Fun Etymology Tuesday – Pamphlet

Tuesday! Time for some etymology, don’t you think? Well, we do!

Today’s word is pamphlet!

This word for a small, unbound treatise comes to English from Anglo-Latin panfletus, a popular short form of Pamphilus, seu de Amore, which means “Pamphilus, or about Love”. Now, why would it be called that?! Well, you see, panfletus (or pamphilus) originally referred to one specific work: a Latin love poem called, you guessed it, “Pamphilus, seu de Amore”!

Very popular during the Middle Ages, the work was widely copied and circulated on its own. The name eventually underwent a semantic broadening, coming to refer to any brief work issued by itself without covers, which typically deals with current interests, during the 16th century (kind of like how “Hoover” came to refer to many different kinds of vacuum cleaners, not just the vacuum cleaners by the brand Hoover).

The word pamphilus is actually also about love: from Greek pamphilos, meaning “loved by all”, from pan-, “all”, and philos, “loving, dear”.

So go out there and love all those little pamphlets! It is all there in the name!

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