History in English Words

History in English Words Review

Owen Barfield's original and thought-provoking works over three-quarters of a century made him a legendary cult figure. History in English Words, his classic historical excursion through the English language, is now back in print after five years.

This popular book provides a brief, brilliant history of those who have spoken the Indo-European tongues. It is illustrated throughout by current English words—whose derivation from other languages, whose history in use and changes of meaning—record and unlock the larger history.

"In our language alone, not to speak of its many companions, the past history of humanity is spread out in an imperishable map, just as the history of the mineral earth lies embedded in the layers of its outer crust.... Language has preserved for us the inner, living history of our soul. It reveals the evolution of consciousness" (Owen Barfield).

About the Author:
Owen Barfield (1898-1997), British philosopher and critic, has been called the "First and Last Inkling" because of his influential and enduring role in the group known as the Oxford Inklings, which included C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. It was Barfield who first advanced the ideas about language, myth, and belief that became identified with the thought and art of the Inklings. He is the author of numerous books, including Poetic Diction; Romanticism Comes of Age; Unancestoral Voice; History, Guilt, and Habit; and Worlds Apart, as well as works of fiction and poetry. His history of the evolution of human consciousness, Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, achieved a place in the list of the "100 Best Spiritual Books of the Century."

Title:History in English Words
Edition Language:English

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    History in English Words Reviews

  • Douglas Wilson

    This is a preeminently readable book of etymology, written by Owen Barfield, friend of C.S. Lewis. This book is not just an isolated series of word histories, but it is also tied in with history histo...

  • Tara

    The first statement on this book should be: if you want to be a writer, or a thinker, you should read this book. If I was teaching a class on nearly any subject, from carpentry to coding to creative w...

  • Richard Subber

    I have found a beautiful book, and I want to share it with you. Indulge me.Owen Barfield, an Oxford graduate who loves language even more than I love it, wrote History in English Words in 1953. In his...

  • M. D.  Hudson

    Barfield was the writer about language all the poets went to back in the day (note the intro by Auden). His book Poetic Diction is considered important, although ten years ago when I tackled it I foun...

  • Rachel

    Adored every chapter. A must read for any student of English history or language!...

  • Dan Snyder

    Beautifully done. I am thinking over the progression of 'internalization' that Barfield outlines. Some are alarmed by this tendency in the history of world concept. I believe I have found a new apprec...

  • Ben McFarland

    I wish I had read this book earlier. Throughout all my reading of Owen Barfield, I wanted to know more about the philology that shaped his thoughts. I got a taste of that in Poetic Diction, but that w...

  • Dave Maddock

    This is a tricky book to rate. I quite liked it but it has some problems, most of which it shares with aspects of Tolkien's "On Fairy-Stories" and "Mythopoeia" (Tree and Leaf) and C.S. Lewis' Space Tr...

  • Roy

    If you have a perspective (or can gain one) from an English reader from England, this book will be easier to grasp than if you maintain a purely American perspective. It is a fascinating study of how ...

  • Lauren

    *3.5 stars*Barfield gets a little out of his depth in moments when he strays from etymology to answering why words changed meaning. Other than those few moments of confusion or combination of sources,...