A Study of The Word Life
What is the meaning and etymology of the word: "life?" The answer to this question is almost five thousand years old and leads us to the Proto-Indo-European word "lip" meaning, ‘to remain, persevere, and continue’. When this word was adopted into the English language as ‘lif’ about 1500 years ago, it stayed true to its original meaning but still closely resembled its Germanic predecessors meaning of ‘body’.
Root Meaning of Life
Before we delve further into English, let's look back at the Greek word for "life" which is translated in English as "ZOE." This is the root of the English words "zoo," "zoology," and even "Zodiac." Zoe is used for the state of existing and being animate which is common to all living things. From early times, "ZOE" (living soul) was adopted by Hellenized Hebrews as a translation of the Ancient Hebrew name/word translated into English as "EVE."
This word EVE is from the Hebrew name חַוָּה (Chawwah), which was derived from the Hebrew word חוה (chawah) meaning "to breathe" or the related word חיה (chayah) meaning "to live". I once had a white German Shepard that I named "Chaia" for the same reason. Hence, Eve is described as the "Mother of ALL living" when looking at the Biblical allegory of creation in the Book of Genesis. This statement makes perfect sense when understanding the meaning of the word, rather than being associated with a literal person.
The New Testament Bible, which was originally penned in Greek before being translated, and uses the word "ZOE" 134 times as an indication of eternal life ... the actual eternal life-force. "LIFE" ... therefore, is the force which animates all living things. This force is what many would call God, or Source Energy.
Old English Use Of Life
Since Old English times, the word "life" has meant: "the condition, quality, or fact of being a living organism." This includes the capacity for growth and development characterized by continued functional activity. It is natural then that from its very beginnings "life" has been used as the opposite meaning of "death" (or the cessation of animate existence). The word life also meant to describe the existence of an individual in respects of its physical duration: "the period from birth to death, from birth to a particular time, or from a particular time to death." It becomes clearly evident that the meaning of the word "life," has not changed much in over 1500 years of use.
Middle English Use Of Life
There were however added meanings that were attached to "life" during the Middle English period. Life began to mean not only the living organism itself, but the cause or the source of living, as in: "the animating principle which keeps a thing alive." The natural extension to this meaning was that people began to believe that life was a possession which was deprived by death - a meaning that can be constantly witnessed in the media.
From the mid 16th century "life" was used to describe the chance to live after a narrowly escaped death - this originated from the myth of cats having nine lives. From the late 16th century the word began to mean the vitality embodied in an individual person who was very energetic and animated. From this later meaning the sport of cricket adopted the word to describe the quality in the pitch which causes the ball to rise abruptly or unevenly after pitching. From the early 18th century ‘life’ included the activity and presence of living things as well.
By the 19th century the term "lifer" or "life sentence" was used for a number of different things ... sporting events, battery duration, a person who was imprisoned for the rest of his existence, and even the term "get a life" used for someone with not much to do but cause trouble.
The bottom line is easily discerned as being descriptive of the force and Source of that which animates living creatures. Even down to a cellular level. Remember, we raise a glass and toast "LIFE" ... not yours or mine ... but LIFE itself. It is that which gives us consciousness, the very breath we take in and out with each moment. All that exists in this physical realm in which we are animated is powered by that energy source, or Source Energy that all is dependent on for our very being.
The New Testament Book of Acts scripture summed it up quite nicely in it's esoteric and metaphorical presentation:
" ... for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children."
We are all a living part of this great organism called the universe. We share all things in this life. Down to the very breath within you and within me. We truly are ONE in this LIFE.
Just a thought ...
~Justin Taylor, ORDM., OCP., DM.