English: An icon for a nurse.

English: An icon for a nurse. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never thought of it before hearing the word in the sermon this past Sunday…nurture 



… and nurse

My Word Nerd flags went flying when my brain connected these words as Pastor continued talking about Paul nurturing the fledgling church in 1 Thessalonians. [Great sermon. I highly suggest reading 1 Thessalonians to get a feel for the deep love Paul had for the church.]

I went running to my trusty Webster’s New World College Dictionary, naturally. Nurse comes to us along the Middle-Englishà French route from the Latin nutrire (and various other forms of the word), meaning “to nourish.” The Latins got it from the Indo-European root neu– meaning “to flow,” showing its roots in the concept of wet-nursing (the flow of milk to the babe).

But we’ve expanded that meaning. The Online Etymology Dictionary says that the use of nurse in its meaning “to care for the sick” came along in the 1580s.

From there, it’s an easy leap of imagination, a little hop really, to the word nurture. I didn’t even have to turn the page in my dictionary!  Yep…same roots. The etymology information even says, “See NURSE.”

I flipped the page to nourish, and it, too, says, “See NURSE.”

Frankly, I like the way this word has expanded. How simple and practical a word it would be if left in its form meaning “wet-nurse.” How profound, yet simple and practical, a word it is in our modern use of it to mean the care of the sick, and how profound our words nurture and nourish are. Yet, also simple and practical.

WORD NERD CHALLENGE: How does this derivation compare to the derivation of our word new? How about neutron?