Thought - Etymology and Usage

Etymology and Usage

The word comes from Old English þoht, or geþoht, from stem of þencan "to conceive of in the mind, consider".

In common language, the word to think covers numerous and diverse psychological activities. It often refers merely to the act of being conscious of something, especially if that thing is outside the immediate environment ("It made me think of my grandmother"). It is sometimes a synonym for "tending to believe," especially with less than full confidence ("I think that it will rain, but I am not sure"). At other times it denotes the degree of attentiveness ("I did it without thinking"). Many other mental activities—many of which may shade into each other—can be covered by the word, such as interpreting, evaluating, imagining, planning, and remembering.

In common usage, "thought" is often attributed to animals, machines, other non-human objects, and phenomena. The exact meaning of such usage varies as well. The attribution of thought or thought processes to non-human objects and phenomena (especially computers) could be considered anthropomorphism, though such categorizations have been contested by such computer scientists as Alan Turing (see Computing Machinery and Intelligence). As regards animals, to what extent different animals think depends on the exact definition of the word that is given, so it may be taken literally or regarded as anthropomorphic.

Little is written about the actual content of thoughts. It would seem we do not think in complete sentences. We think fragments, ideas embodied in words. We don't think "I mailed the package to my sister this morning", we think "mailed package sister morning". If we're reading a book, our thoughts include the story line and our reflections on the story line. But our thoughts can contain only one idea at a time, so if the plot is "hero runs after murderer" and our reflection is "he was foolish to trust the villain", our thought is something like "hero foolish trust run after murderer villain".

Our thoughts may include images.

Read more about this topic:  Thought

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Famous quotes containing the words usage and/or etymology:

    ...Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, “It depends.” And what it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is.
    Kenneth G. Wilson (b. 1923)

    The universal principle of etymology in all languages: words are carried over from bodies and from the properties of bodies to express the things of the mind and spirit. The order of ideas must follow the order of things.
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